A man murdered in Philadelphia last week was targeted because he was considered a “snitch” for testifying in a 2019 murder trial, his distraught mother said.
Khaleaf Sistrunk, 21, died on Nov. 16 after two gunmen unleashed a torrent of 11 rounds as he sat on a dirt bike near the Clothespin sculpture across from City Hall in Center City. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, where doctors found him in possession of an unlicensed 9mm handgun, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“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.”
Sistrunk, whose relatives said he had been shot at eight times in the past two years, spoke to police in 2018 about the still-unsolved drive-by killing of his older brother, Khalil. He also testified last year as a witness in a murder trial of a teen who fatally shot his friend on Easter Sunday, the newspaper reported.
Sistrunk was later targeted for his cooperation, relatives said, including an incident in October when a gunman shot at his FedEx delivery truck in Queens Village, seriously injuring his coworker.
No suspects have been identified in Sistrunk’s slaying, but investigators also believe he was targeted due to his testimony in last year’s trial, police said.
“It’s highly likely that he was murdered due to his role in the 2019 trial,” Homicide Capt. Jason Smith told the newspaper. “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?” he continued.
Sistrunk was devastated by his brother’s death and told police whom he thought was responsible for the slaying, his mother said, although his cooperation did not lead an arrest, the newspaper reported.
But Sistruck did testify in court last year in the 2018 shooting death of his friend, 16-year-old William Bethel. Zahmir White, 18, was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and received at least 24 years in prison, according to the Inquirer.
District Attorney Larry Krasner told the newspaper that his office is working with cops to identify who killed Sistrunk while acknowledging the “tragic reality” of people being fearful of testify 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.
Sistrunk was Bethel’s lone friend to testify at White’s trial. He was aware of the risk it entailed, his mother said.
“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 no arrests have been made in Sistrunk’s slaying as of Wednesday.
“The investigation is active and ongoing with our Homicide Unit,” a police spokeswoman wrote in an email.