Last week, a Philadelphia man was murdered for allegedly being a “snitch” for testifying in a 2019 murder trial.
21-year-old Khaleaf Sistrunk died on Nov. 16 after two gunmen released 11 rounds as he sat on a dirt bike near the Clothespin sculpture across from City Hall in Center City. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the victim was later pronounced dead at the hospital, where doctors found him in possession of an unlicensed 9mm handgun.
“They shot him because they said he was a snitch,” Sistrunk’s mother, who asked not to be identified due to fears of reprisal, told the newspaper. “He was trying to do the right thing, and he got killed for it.”
According to his relatives, Khaleaf had been shot eight times in the past two years. In 2018, he spoke to police about the still-unsolved drive-by killing of his older brother, Khalil. Last year, he testified as a witness in a murder trial of a teen who fatally shot his friend on Easter Sunday.
Relatives say that Khaleaf was later targeted for his cooperation, including an incident in October when a gunman shot at his FedEx delivery truck in Queens Village, which seriously injured his coworker.
Police say that no suspects have been identified in his slaying, but investigators also believe Khaleaf was targeted due to his testimony in last year’s trial.
Homicide Capt. Jason Smith told the newspaper, “It’s highly likely that he was murdered due to his role in the 2019 trial.” He added, “It’s retaliation for testifying.” Potential witnesses to crimes are “afraid” to talk to police investigators due to the “violence that is leveled upon those who cooperate,” Smith said. “Who can blame them?”
Following his brother’s death, Khaleaf told the police who he believed to be responsible for the slaying, although his cooperation did not lead to an arrest. However, he did testify in court last year in the 2018 shooting death of his friend, 16-year-old William Bethel, which led to the arrest of 18-year-old Zahmir White.
District Attorney Larry Krasner told the newspaper that his office is working with cops to identify who killed Khaleaf while acknowledging the “tragic reality” of people being fearful of testifying in court or cooperating with police. “But in the meantime, every public official and agency can and must examine the conditions that made him unsafe in his old neighborhood or while he was at work,” Krasner said.
According to his mother, Khaleaf was Bethel’s only friend to testify at White’s trial, and he was aware of the risk it entailed.
“They hunted him to kill him,” she said. “Doing the right thing gets you killed, and that’s what happened to my son.”
Philadelphia Police told The Post that no arrests have yet to be made in the slaying of Khaleaf Sistrunk.
“The investigation is active and ongoing with our Homicide Unit,” a police spokeswoman wrote in an email.