Philly’s Mill Creek community mourns the death of a beloved parks and recreation employee

Derrick Long, pastor of the community group Men of Mill Creek, helped raise Fletcher. He said she was like a family member to him and a pillar in the community.

“Beautiful young woman, raised her family, took care of her children, worked for the community. She could have found jobs elsewhere. She wanted to give back,” Long said. “And she gave her life for it. She gave her life for it. It has long been hoped that community leaders and officials in Philadelphia can take more proactive approaches to ending gun violence. He wondered why no adults had intervened before and asked the teenagers involved in the shooting why they weren’t at school in the middle of the day.

On Saturday, September 10, at the Mill Creek Recreation Center, neighbors and loved ones paid their respects to Tiffany Fletcher, a mother of three who was killed by a stray bullet Friday afternoon outside the center. (Emily Rizzo / WHY)

“We have to start taking care of ourselves. Someone must be here. We can’t keep showing up after the fact,” Long said. “We have to get involved before the fight. We need to take this initiative… More needs to be done. And it starts with us.

Long said the region needs more programs and other “positive alternatives” for young people.

Keith Bell, a Parks and Rec employee, runs a basketball program for ages 9 to 16 in Mill Creek, a few blocks from the recreation center.

“It’s just insane,” Bell said. Bell had known Fletcher since birth. The recreation center area, he said, “is meant to be a safe haven.”

Bell was asked to shut down his basketball program for the day, out of respect for Fletcher’s family, he said. Usually it operates three days a week.

“Now we have kids here running around doing nothing and could get caught in another crossfire, while I can have them inside in a safe place,” Bell said. “Sometimes they don’t let us play our part.”

Among those who came to mourn the loss of Tiffany Fletcher on Saturday were at least 30 bikers who were part of a “Pedal for Peace” in West Philadelphia. (Emily Rizzo / WHY)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell released statements Friday.

“I was beyond appalled to learn of this heinous and senseless crime that has completely devastated so many people, especially his family,” Kenney said.

Lovell said the use of firearms in and around city parks is “unconscionable.”

“Our colleague came to work every day to serve her neighbors and make her family proud,” Lovell said in the statement.

The Philadelphia Police Department has a 14-year-old boy in custody for the shooting.

The city is now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person who fires a weapon within 500 feet of a school, recreation center or library.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find bereavement support and resources here.