As the streets outside the house rang with pops, Darryl Steplight assumed it was fireworks on the eve of the 4th of July. He quickly learned otherwise. A man in a bulletproof vest and armed with an AR-15-style rifle had opened fire at random in the neighborhood, killing five people and wounding two, including a 2-year-old boy.
The man who was arrested and charged with carrying out the rampage was Kimbrady Carriker, whom Mr. Steplight had met just last week.
The meeting was unremarkable, Mr. Steplight said, except for one curious detail: Mr. Carriker, wearing a military-style green vest, had introduced himself as a « guardian of the city ».
On Wednesday, two days after the mass shooting in Southwest Philadelphia, the city was trying to figure out what had prompted such an unexplained outbreak of violence. In the morning, Mr Carriker, 40, was arraigned, appearing on video in a white suit and offering terse answers as a magistrate read out the charges, including murder, attempted murder and reckless endangerment. He was ordered to hold him without bond.
At a news briefing in the afternoon, prosecutors said people living with Mr Carriker had told investigators he had « displayed erratic behavior » and « been increasingly agitated » over the past few days, even wearing his vest. bulletproof around the house. A search of his home, said Robert Wainwright, an assistant district attorney, revealed a will Mr. Carriker had written, dated June 23. Mr. Wainwright didn’t say what was in the will.
Authorities said he had an AR-15-style rifle and a so-called ghost pistol, made from untraceable parts, when Mr Carriker was arrested, although investigators have yet to determine how he obtained the firearms.
Prosecutors said the ghost gun did not fire during the shooting and that a gun and ammunition were found during a search of Mr. Carriker’s home. Mr. Carrierer did not have a license to own guns, prosecutors said.
Mr Wainwright said at least one of the seven people who shared a house with Mr Carriker had acknowledged he was becoming more disturbed. But another prosecutor, Joanne Pescatore, said « their way of dealing with the matter was just to avoid him and not interfere with him. »
Pennsylvania does not have a « red flag » law, which allows families or law enforcement agencies to seek a court order for the temporary seizure of guns from individuals deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. But officials encouraged people to report worrying behavior anyway, suggesting that Mr Carriker could have gotten help if authorities had been aware of his behavior. After a 2004 misdemeanor conviction for carrying a firearm without a license, Mr. Carriker had apparently spent his life largely off the radar of local law enforcement agencies.
He was, however, a familiar figure to his neighbors in the block of two-storey terraced houses where he had lived. They remembered him as friendly and sometimes helpful. « He’s never given us any problems, he’s always been a good guy, » said Bernard Mason, 53, who lives across the street. « We’ve seen him a couple of times in high heels and a dress and he just didn’t mind. It’s his thing about him. »
Mr. Carriker appeared in women’s clothing in photos on his Facebook page, possibly contributing to confusion about his gender identity in the first few hours after his arrest. The district attorney’s office said Wednesday it had not seen any information to suggest he considers himself anything but male.
It was on social media that Mr Carriker’s state of mind may have been most visible to people outside his home. His Facebook page hints at a shadowy libertarian politics, with memes denigrating President Biden alongside posts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and through it all support for unrestricted gun rights.
In the days leading up to the mass shooting, his Facebook activity — posts about being followed by evil spirits, along with articles about efforts to address gun violence in Philadelphia — may have reflected the turmoil prosecutors described.
« But we prayed to our God and sent a guard day and night to deal with this threat, » read a post on Saturday, two days before the shooting. It was followed by an excerpt from the book of Isaiah: « To save you, I will send an army against Babylon, » reads one verse. “I will break down the city gates; and the cries of his people will turn to weeping. »
Jon Obstacle contributed report. Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.