PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 19-year-old man has admitted his role in a carjacking that ended with the hit-and-run deaths of three children in Philadelphia, after deciding to cooperate “to atone for what happened,” his lawyer said Monday.
The man, Johnathan Rosa, claims a second man initiated the carjacking Friday and was driving the sport utility vehicle when it sped out of control and struck a family selling fruit at a street corner for a church fundraiser, said his attorney, Christopher Warren.
But Warren said Rosa “made the decision to get in the car. I’m pretty sure that’s one he’s going to regret for the rest of his life.”
Police said they were questioning two men in the carjacking deaths but hadn’t filed charges. They didn’t name the men they were talking to.
Rosa and the man he said drove the car had been hanging out together for a few days when the other man noticed a woman coming down the steet and decided to carjack her, Warren said.
The woman was forced at gunpoint into the backseat, police said.
About a mile from the carjacking site, the accident occurred. Witnesses reported seeing a car speeding through the intersection, then children lying motionless on the ground.
Keiearra Williams, 15, and her brothers, Thomas Reed, 10, and Terrence Moore, 7, were killed. Their mother, Keisha Williams, 34, was also struck and remained in critical condition Monday.
Rosa “can’t get the image of the girl flying over the hood of the SUV out of his mind,” Warren said.
The 19-year-old was brought to the police station for questioning Saturday after his cellphone was found in the backseat of the carjacked vehicle, his attorney said. At that time, Warren said, Rosa claimed his cellphone had been stolen and he was released.
After talking with his mother and pastor, he decided to turn himself in Sunday, Warren said.
“He and his mother sat down and decided the best thing they can do is try and cooperate to atone for what happened,” he told TV stations.
He said Rosa had never been arrested before and planned to join the Marines in two months.
The accident touched off a citywide manhunt.
With two men being questioned, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey told radio station KYW-AM on Monday that that “we don’t have to have a manhunt out there right now.” But he stopped short of calling the two men suspects.
The carjacked real estate agent and a friend helping the family sell fruit were also injured in the accident.