PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man suspected of being the leader of a carjacking ring has been charged with murder and other counts in connection to two fatal shootings and other incidents in Philadelphia in recent weeks.
Philadelphia police announced Tuesday the arrest of Jonathan Akubu, 28, of Drexel Hill, Pa., just west of Philadelphia, in connection to at least three carjackings since the beginning of February. Investigators said those incidents are still under investigation and more people are likely to face charges, but police officials also said they believe Akubu is connected to other crimes in recent months in both Philadelphia and surrounding counties.
Cpt. Jason Smith with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit said during a news conference Tuesday that police believe Akubu is the head of a loosely organized ring of three or more other people in their late teens or early 20s, who have been targeting newer model Toyota SUVs in armed carjackings.
There has been a sharp increase in carjacking incidents with more than 200 reported so far this year, according to Philadelphia police crime statistics. That’s almost seven times more than were reported during the same time frame in 2020.
Smith said police are investigating Akubu’s possible involvement in carjackings in other jurisdictions around Philadelphia including Millbourne and King of Prussia.
Akubu was arrested over the weekend and remained in jail Tuesday. No attorney information for him was listed in court documents as of Tuesday afternoon.
Akubu is charged with multiple counts of assault, theft, robbery, firearms violations and other charges. He is facing two counts of murder in the Feb. 6 fatal carjacking of 60-year-old Marine Corps veteran George Briscella and the Feb. 12 fatal shooting of Aiah Gbessay, whose van was found set ablaze a few blocks from where he was found with three gunshot wounds to the head.
Police recovered a handgun and an AK-47 style rifle from the Lansdowne apartment where Akubu was arrested. Using ballistic evidence, investigators connected those guns to at least four incidents between late January through Feb. 12, Smith said.