Cassie Owens and Jonathan Lai
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — Samuel Sean Collington, a Temple University student and fellow with the City Commissioner’s Office, died Sunday afternoon shortly after being shot in North Philadelphia.
The 21-year-old Collington was shot twice in the chest, authorities say. He was pronounced dead around 2 p.m. at Temple University Hospital. Police are still searching for a suspect.
According to 6abc reporter Bob Brooks, sources told him that a robber attacked the student after he finished parking his car, then killed him. The incident occurred just blocks from the university’s main campus.
A Temple University spokesperson confirmed the homicide in a statement.
“Temple University is deeply saddened to confirm that a student was found off-campus at 2252 North Park Avenue (Park and Dauphin) this afternoon with gunshot wounds,” the spokesperson said in the statement released Sunday afternoon. “The student was taken to Temple University Hospital and was initially in critical care, but was pronounced dead a short time later.”
“This is a tragedy in every sense of the word,” the spokesperson continued. “Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time.”
Philadelphia has surpassed its previous record for most homicides in a year, with more than 500 shootings in 2021 so far. On Sunday night, police reported another homicide in North Philadelphia. A 16-year-old was fatally shot at 8 p.m. in the 400 block of Diamond Street.
Collington, who was from Prospect Park, was a senior and political science student. He was a democracy fellow in the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, the office that runs elections. A 2019 Twitter post from Temple’s Political Science department detailed that he canvassed for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Democrats. An ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Collington co-hosted a podcast on politics and current events called The Tempest.
City Commissioner Omar Sabir, for whom Collington worked, expressed sympathies in a statement.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of Samuel Collington, a fellow in my office and a student at Temple University,” Sabir said in the statement. “Samuel was an incredibly talented and engaged young man. During his brief time with our office, Samuel exemplified an incredible passion for engaging voters and was an indispensable member of our team. Sam’s death is a tremendous loss for the City Commissioners and all who knew him. Last week, our city passed the grim milestone of 500 homicides in 2021. We must combat this epidemic that plagues our city.”
The Mayor’s Office also reacted to Collington’s death in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Samuel Collington, and strongly condemn this and any acts of violence in our city. We grieve every life lost to violence, and we’re heartbroken for Samuel’s friends and family as they cope with this unimaginable loss. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, the Temple University community, and his colleagues in the City Commissioners’ Office. Philadelphia police are actively investigating this horrific incident and we urge anyone with information to contact the anonymous tip line: call or text at 215-686-TIPS (8477).”
“Reducing gun violence remains the City of Philadelphia’s top priority, and we will continue to work tirelessly with our community partners in response to the national public health emergency that gun violence presents.”
Temple professor Artemy M. Kalinovsky, an expert in Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet Studies, remembered Collington for his intellect, as well as his potential. In a statement, he explained that Collington was in the first class he taught at the university.
“Sam was one of those students who was shy at first, but whose passion for trying to understand how the world works (and how a better world might be possible) came across almost immediately,” Kalinovsky, who taught Collington Russian and Soviet history, said in a statement. “Even on Zoom, you could see he was the kind of student who inspired the students around him, something only confirmed seeing him in action as the head of the Political Science Society. With his inquisitive and sharp mind, he could have been a scholar, but he was also concerned with the problems of the here and now and doing something useful.”
In an interview, City Commissioner Sabir described Collington as a quiet, creative hard worker. He expressed concern about Collington’s passing, as well as the city’s gun violence crisis more broadly.
“I think you have to look at the whole root cause of it, right? Not just looking at the actual shooting, we have to look at the whole environment holistically,” Sabir said. “It happens all over the city, but it happens a lot more in some areas over other areas, and there’s a lot of correlation between that and people not wanting to participate in the election process and not being involved in being citizens.”
“In our meetings when we were talking about voter turnout and stuff, he understood it,” Sabir continued. “I don’t know, man, we gotta do better. We all gotta get on the same page and try to really attack it holistically, from every avenue we can look at. We attacked the COVID-19 crisis, but the gun violence, that’s a pandemic that’s affecting our city.”
In a late Sunday night email to the Temple University community, Charlie Leone, Temple’s executive director of public safety, wrote that the university would be increasing its work with police, city government and community groups to improve safety around the institution. The email also directed students in need of support to Temple’s university counseling services. Leone wrote that the incident broke his heart, and that the university shared grief with Collington’s loved ones.
“We know that these thoughts, no matter how strongly felt, cannot repair their broken hearts,” Leone wrote, “so it is with humility that we offer our deepest condolences to those who were closest to Samuel, especially his mother Molly and father Dennis.”
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