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A Philadelphia community leader who was critically injured when he was shot during a carjacking earlier this year says he no longer feels safe in the city where he was born and raised, as the nation prepares for President Biden’s address from the Birthplace of America.
Raheem Bell, 27, fought for his life after he was shot twice in the stomach in April. He overcame months of doctor’s visits, surgery and a strenuous recovery, but said he still finds the events the befell him “unbelievable.”
“I was born and raised in Philadelphia,” he said. “I’ve been seeing it going on around me but never thought it would actually happen to me.”
“Never,” he added, “would I think I’d be a victim of gun violence.“
Bell, an educator, was known in the city for his community advocacy even before he was attacked. He has reinforced his efforts in the wake of the events, including by hosting a local school drive and block party last month.
He also founded what he called a “home care agency focusing on gunshot victims” with the goal of providing victims with “the same care that I needed.”
Bell was outside his home in Philadelphia’s Oxford Circle neighborhood on the morning of April 10 when four men approached and dragged him from his 2015 Mercedes-Benz, local affiliate FOX 29 reported at the time.
“They demanded my vehicle,” he recalled to Fox News Digital, describing how he had been sitting in the car at the time. “I gave up my vehicle to the men and then was shot twice in the stomach.”
Despite the more than four months have passed since the incident, Bell said he is still recovering, has a colostomy bag and will need more surgery.
He described how he has seen “an increase in violence before this happened to me,” and said “even after it is still going up.”
He called on community leaders to find a way to combat the violence.
Asked if he feels safe in Philadelphia, he paused and responded: “The honest answer, no. But I’m here.”
President Biden is scheduled to address the nation from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on Thursday, and the White House says he will speak about the continued battle for the soul of the nation.”
“He will talk about the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack,” the White House said. “And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.”
Biden’s prime-time address comes at a time when murders in the city are up, albeit slightly, compared to the same time last year, and the city has seen a spate of violent crimes. The Philadelphia Police Department reported 364 homicides as of Wednesday, up 2% from the 357 recorded at the same time last year.
As of Aug. 28, total violent crime in Philadelphia was up by 7% year-to-date, with robberies, including those with the use of firearms, leading the charge. Homicides were down by 2.5% for the period, while shootings and shooting victims were each up by around 3%, police statistics show.
And 562 people were killed in Philadelphia in 2021 – the highest number reported since 2007, the earliest year for which the agency publishes statistics.
Speaking to Fox News Digital on Wednesday, Mr. Bell said he hopes to hear from Biden a message that spurs “just a change for Philadelphia.”
Asked if he had a message for the president and other elected officials, he responded: “There’s no words. No words to say.”