As his grandmother Brenda Arter remembers, Antonio Miller was a “gentle giant” and a role model who spent his time volunteering at the Society for Helping Church on Park and Susquehanna avenues.
“Children loved him because he was so tall,” Arter said. “They thought he was the greatest.”
Arter lost her grandson Saturday evening, and the family is now arranging a service to honor the 25-year-old.
Philadelphia Police said Miller was shot three times in the head in an empty lot on Edgley Street near 18th around 4:40 p.m. Saturday. He died three hours later at Temple University Hospital.
“A witness heard two gunshots and then saw two males appearing to be juveniles run from a vacant lot,” said Charlie Leone, executive director of Campus Safety Services. “[The] witness then heard a third gunshot and a third male ran from the lot.”
Philadelphia Police said the suspects, who wore all black clothing, could be in their late teens to early 20s and were last spotted running south on 18th Street.
The shooters “did something unspeakable,” Arter, 67, told The Temple News yesterday at her house on Bouvier Street near Susquehanna Avenue, three blocks from the shooting. She raised Miller from a young age along with his two sisters, who sat quietly as their grandmother talked Monday afternoon.
“I can’t believe this happened to my grandson,” she said. “He had many friends, or so we thought.”
Miller went to Benjamin Franklin High School where he participated in the debate team and played basketball, she added. He attended and helped out at the Society for Helping Church, which helps the deaf and hard of hearing.
Arter, who is blind, said Miller would “back [her] up” when she went out by herself or did chores.
“I can do things on my own, but he’d still be there,” she said.
Justin Savage, 40, said he was in his home on the 1700 block of Edgley Street—where the shooting occurred—when he heard three shots outside.
“When you hear gunshots, either you run, or you stand and fight,” said Savage, who has lived on the block for five months. “This is North Philadelphia, but this is the first time I’ve heard shots on this block.”
Brian, 55, was in his home next to the empty lot on Edgley Street at the time of the shooting. He said he has lived there since the 1990s without seeing a shooting on the block, and felt uncomfortable giving his last name with the shooters still at large.
“I only heard two gunshots,” he said. “A shot, then they hesitated, then another shot.”
Brian said he waited before going outside, and saw someone coming from the other end of the block, saying there was a body. He and a neighbor later called police.
“I was standing here, like I am now, smoking a cigarette,” he said, leaning against the rail on the steps to his house.
He then pointed to the spot where Miller was shot, and said, “There was someone right there bleeding to death, and I didn’t know until someone said, ‘Hey, there’s a body.’”
As Arter and her grandchildren continued to mourn yesterday, they indicated that Miller’s death would be felt throughout the community.
“Talk to all the elderly people on this street, and they’ll tell you how he helped them,” she said.
Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChristieJules.