In Wake Of Montco Bowling Alley Shooting, A Community Reels

EAST NORRITON, PA — Saturday night, Feb. 20, started out like any other pandemic Saturday evening the Our Town Alley lanes in East Norriton.

The Swede Road establishment, sitting on a quiet commercial strip in the vicinity of numerous chain stores, restaurants, gyms, and groceries, has been a haven of fond memories for the local community for decades. It proudly considers itself family friendly.

But at around 6:39 p.m. Saturday, an argument between two groups of men in the alley swiftly turned deadly.

Jamel Barnwell, a 17-year-old from Upper Darby, pulled out a handgun and opened fire on another group of men, killing 29-year-old Philadelphia resident Frank Wade, according to authorities. Four more were injured by his gunfire, police said.

For those that know and love the local spot — dating back to its days as Facenda Whitaker Lanes — the violence was a shock.

“This incident is an anomaly, an uncommon occurrence in our neighborhood,” Our Town Alley said in a public statement regarding the incident. “Our Town Alley has always been a safe place where families come to enjoy themselves, a place for friends and camaraderie.”

The nature of the argument remains unclear. After Barnwell fired the opening shots, security footage shows him firing several more at Wade as he tried to crawl to safety, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The bloodshed occurred in front of a crowd of some 50 to 75 people, including many children. The patrons fled for safety once the shots began to ring out, hiding in closets and rushing out the doors.

Wade was killed, and at least four more people were injured, including Yahnirr Brooks, 21; Shamir Jones, 31; Robert Oliver, 26; and Ahmir Simmons, 19.

The East Norriton Police Department called the incident traumatizing for the community. They encouraged residents to reach out to the Victim Services Center of Montgomery County (1-888-521-0983).

“A person who has been victimized often struggles with flashbacks, trouble sleeping, feelings of guilt, anger, fear, grief, and or loss,” the department said. “All of these feelings can be overwhelming, but victims don’t have to experience them alone.”

Our Town Alley, which opened in 1959, has reopened since the shooting. They’re committed to getting past the tragedy.

“Just as we have been recovering from this difficult past year, we will also recover from this event,” they said. “We affirm our mission to maintain a family-friendly, fun entertainment center.”

The alley has worked with police on the investigation. Barnwell turned himself in earlier this week. One of the other men with him, who police said drove the getaway car, was arrested and charged Friday.

An investigation into the incident remains ongoing.

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