By CLAUDIA LAUER and BEATRICE DUPUY
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A father who was preparing to walk his eldest daughter down the aisle. An aspiring actor who appeared as an extra in the “Creed” movie franchise. A teenager who tried to help a wounded friend. These are the stories of those killed in the all-too-familiar thrum of another mass shooting.
Five people in a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia were gunned down Monday in what became the deadliest among a rash of U.S. shootings that occurred around the July Fourth holiday. A gunman in a ski mask and body armor appeared to fire on people at random while they were on the street or in a car, authorities said.
Ralph Moralis, 59; Joseph Wamah Jr., 31; Dymir Stanton, 29; Lashyd Merritt, 21; and DaJuan Brown, 15, were killed in the shooting. Four others, including two 2-year-old boys, were also wounded.
The alleged shooter was arraigned Wednesday on multiple charges including five counts of murder.
The victims’ families remain shattered as they now cope with the feeling of senseless loss.
RALPH MORALIS: THE “GO-TO-GUY”
Ralph Moralis’ daughter was to be married Sunday. But instead of focusing on the joy of her wedding day, she is now planning her father’s funeral, said Karen Gleason, his sister-in-law.
All the joy they had been feeling leading up to the momentous occasion was torn away when Moralis was shot outside the childhood home where he lived. The entire family, including Moralis’ two brothers, have not stopped crying since hearing the news.
“It’s unfathomable,” she said. “It’s so unbelievable that you can’t even go out your front door.”
The 59-year-old had been prepping for weeks on what he would wear, making sure he wouldn’t mess up during his first child’s wedding rehearsal. Moralis was always the one willing to go out of his way to help.
“He was the go-to-guy whether you needed a bike put together for one of the kids or his cousin was saying: ‘I need to get to Florida. Can you drive me?’” she said. “He would do that. He was just there always for family and always willing to help.”
JOSEPH WAMAH JR.: ASPIRING ACTOR WITH DEEP ARTISTIC TALENT
Joseph Wamah Jr. knew acting was his calling. The 31-year-old studied psychology at Chestnut Hill College but he became active in the local Philadelphia acting community, said close friend Terrance Harden. He even got a role as an extra in one of the “Creed” movies, starring Michael B. Jordan.
Harden, who has known Wamah since high school, said the two bonded over their love of filmmaking. Before Wamah was found dead inside a home early Tuesday, Harden had imagined the two would grow old as friends and achieve the level of success that they both wanted for each other.
“With such a great attitude, such a positive outlook on life, it almost seems like good fortune ought to come your way,” he said. “That’s why it was so hard to believe that this could have happened to him.”
Wamah’s twin sister Josephine and another sister, Jasmine, were full of anger Wednesday as they spoke at a news conference of a brother who had a smile and hug for everyone.
“I just still can’t believe that my brother is gone. And I just don’t understand why this happened. He was a kind soul. He was nice to everyone,” Josephine Wamah said.
Wamah also loved to cook — despite having little culinary talent. But his real gift was as an artist, his sisters said.
“He had the worst cooking. We still ate it because he just… he tried. He couldn’t cook, but he could sketch his butt off,” Josephine Wamah said. “It was so detail-oriented and so passionate. It was so rooted and down to earth. It was just spiritual. You could feel this man’s emotions in every brushstroke.”
Josephine Wamah said she plans to find all of her brother’s artwork and share his talent with the world.
“I just don’t understand how someone could just do that to my brother. I really loved him,” she said.
LASHYD MERRITT: A GOOD KID
Lashyd Merritt’s mother told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia that her son was a good kid who loved his family, especially his nieces and nephews. He loved buying them gifts at Christmas.
Marie Merritt said Lashyd Merritt, who would have been 22 in September, was out buying a snack while on a work break Monday.
“I don’t understand why people just — whatever anger they have within themselves— I don’t understand why someone in the neighborhood would have that type of stuff, like guns — I don’t understand that,” Marie Merritt said. “And you’re just taking good people away,”
She wants the suspected shooter to “rot in jail.” She also is thinking about how her son would feel.
“(My heart) is broken. I feel him saying, ‘Why me?’”
DAJUAN BROWN: KILLED WHILE HELPING A FRIEND
DaJuan Brown’s mother, Nashaya Thomas, told WCAU-TV her teenage son was walking to a store when gunfire started. Brown was helping a 13-year-old friend who had been shot twice in the legs when he was gunned down.
He was someone people couldn’t help but fall in love with.
“He lost his life trying to do a selfless act,” she said, “and that’s how he was when he was here.”
Dupuy reported from New York City.