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July 2011



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July 16, 2011|By Allison Steele, Inquirer Staff Writer


Philadelphia police said Friday that they were still piecing together how a 4-year-old boy was shot to death inside a Kensington house this week, but sources close to the investigation said someone would be charged in the near future.


Police sources described the death of Javier Merle Jr. as accidental, and said the boy may have picked up a gun left unattended.


The child’s death left family members anguished and residents of the 600 block of East Clementine Street shocked.


Candles, stuffed animals, and toy cars were placed in front of the boy’s home, along with a red tricycle. Car windows bore messages of “R.I.P. Lil Javie” and “Good die young.”


On Friday morning, family and friends sat quietly in front of the house. When asked about the boy, one young man looked down.


“There’s nothing to say, really,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “The little one is gone. That’s it.”


Police have been tight-lipped about the circumstances of the shooting. They have acknowledged that they believe several adults were in the home at the time, and they have questioned the boy’s parents and other relatives.


“The case is very much under investigation,” Capt. James Clark said Friday. “We’re still not sure what happened.”


Police arrived at the house around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, responding to a call about a child bleeding from the head. Javier was pronounced dead at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children shortly afterward.


The boy’s parents declined to comment Friday. The couple have two younger children who also live in the house.


After the shooting, investigators combed the house and the area in search of the weapon. A gun was found, police said, but they are not certain it is the one that killed the boy.


The narrow block is dotted with rundown houses, but is also filled with families and parents who sit on the steps and chat while their children play. On Friday, a hopscotch court was drawn in chalk on the street and a few friends washed off their grill for a barbecue.


Javier, who was autistic, was known as a friendly presence on the block who loved video games and superheroes.


“All the kids here play together,” said one young woman who asked not to be named because “I would not feel safe.”


Neighbors said Merle and his wife were friendly and devoted to their children.


“They loved that little boy,” said one woman, who also declined to give her name. “They love all of their kids. This is a great loss to us.”


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