Boy, 12, 'Brutally Killed and Placed in a Trash Can'

Hezekiah Bernard of Philadelphia was shot in the head around Aug. 22
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2023 8:51 AM CDT
Boy, 12, 'Brutally Killed and Placed in a Trash Can'
Stock photo of a city garbage dumpster at night.   (Getty Images/GatorDawg)

A body found in a dumpster in West Philadelphia last week is a 12-year-old boy who was shot in the head and wrapped in plastic. Police identified him Thursday as Hezekiah "Hezzy" Bernard, a homicide victim who'd been under the care of the Department of Human Services, per WHYY. He had not been reported missing, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. He's believed to have died 24 to 36 hours before his body was found in a dumpster at a public housing complex at 55th and Cherry Streets on Aug. 23. A Housing Authority sanitation employee picked up the dumpster on Aug. 22, then moved it to a Housing Authority facility overnight, authorities said Thursday. While the employee was moving the dumpster back to its original location the following day, the container overturned, revealing the boy's body.

Responding officers found the body "on the rear of a dump truck," per USA Today. Medics "pronounced the male dead at 10:26am," says police rep Jasmine Reilly. On Aug. 24, "a comprehensive post-examination was conducted on the decedent's (remains) and the manner of death was ruled a homicide," Reilly added. But police still didn't know who the victim was. After fliers were distributed in West Philadelphia, Hezekiah's family reached out to the Medical Examiner's Office on Tuesday, per the Inquirer. Hezekiah grew up in North Philadelphia but had been living in West Philadelphia, his sister tells the outlet, which describes Hezekiah's family as "overwhelmed with grief."

Pastor Aaron Campbell, founding director of the LevelUp organization that provides a safe space for young people "amid the gun violence crisis and unprecedented homicide count in Philadelphia," says the boy joined the group every Tuesday and Thursday. "He lit up a room. He was always dancing," Campbell tells the Inquirer. "He wanted to be mentored and he was joining our new job training program." His death has left friends confused. Ernest Random, head of the Philadelphia police homicide unit, called for the public's help "to identify the offenders in this investigation," stressing that a 12-year-old boy "was brutally, brutally killed, and placed in a trash can," per WHYY. "The focus of this investigation is the swift apprehension of those involved," he said. (More murder stories.)

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