Uncle Charged for Returning Fire in Drive-by Shooting That Injured 10-year-old Boy

Semaj O'Branty was struck by gunfire as he was near his uncle, investigators say

What to Know

  • A 10-year-old boy walking home from school was shot in a drive-by shooting in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon.
  • The suspected gunman fired from a red Pontiac G6, police said.
  • The boy's uncle has been charged with returning gunfire, but is not charged with shooting Semaj O'Branty.

The uncle of a 10-year-old boy struck by gunfire during a Northeast Philadelphia drive-by shooting earlier this week is now facing charges for returning fire, authorities announced Friday.

Ernest Richardson, 22, was charged with reckless endangerment, possessing an instrument of crime and violating firearms regulations, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. 

Officials said Richardson was walking his nephew, Semaj O'Branty, Wednesday afternoon near Margaret Street and Torresdale Avenue when shots were fired at them, the DA's office said. 

Richardson allegedly returned fire before dropping the weapon in a recycling bin. That weapon was later recovered. 

Police previously said he was likely the intended target.

Richardson was arraigned Thursday and remained jailed Friday on $400,000 bail, according to court records. He will be represented by a public defender.

O'Branty's shooter remains on the loose. The local police union is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the suspect's arrest.

The boy was walking home from Warren G. Harding Middle School in the Frankford neighborhood around 3:15 p.m. when he spotted a group of young men standing on the corner. He walked up to one of them and shook his hand, police said. 

As the two greeted each other, a red Pontiac G6 pulled up near the group. An unidentified gunman in the backseat of the vehicle opened fire. The car then drove off on Margaret Street, police said.

Surveillance image released by Philadelphia police

Surveillance video obtained by NBC10 showed the boy and two other men running for cover as the gunman fired. The boy was struck in the head and fell to the ground, police said.

Richardson pulled out his own weapon and returned fire, investigators said, but the car sped off.

Witness Jahaira Cruz told NBC10 she ran out to help the boy after the shooting.

"I quickly grabbed someone's hoodie," Cruz said. "I don't know who's it was and I properly put correct pressure on the wound to try to get him to at least stabilize as best he could."

Police said the shooting was likely drug-related.

"That child that had nothing to do with it. That child that has a smile on his face," Marcia Fulton, who attends church with the boy's family, told NBC10. "That child that went to school this morning."

The victim remains in critical condition as of Friday.

The shooting broke out amid escalating gun violence throughout the Pennsylvania city, including the death of a 2-year-old girl and the grievous injury of an 11-month-old boy.

Hours before the 10-year-old was shot, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced "expanded initiatives" for neighborhoods most plagued by gun violence, including intervention programs and rapid response outreach.

The programs would start in the spring, according to an emailed statement. 

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