Gay journalist shot dead in Point Breeze

Josh Kruger headshot

This story has been updated to include comments from District Attorney Larry Krasner, the District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee and Executive Director for the Office of LGBT Affairs Celena Morrison-McLean, and police spokesperson Tanya Little.

Josh Kruger, 39, an award-winning gay journalist and former city employee, was shot dead this week inside his Point Breeze residence.

Kruger’s bullet-riddled body was discovered outside his row home at about 1:30 a.m. Oct. 2, after an unknown person entered his residence and shot him multiple times.

Police released the following narrative of the incident: “[There was a] homicide by shooting inside a home on the 2300 block of Watkins Street at 1:28 a.m. A 39-year-old white male was shot seven times throughout the chest and abdomen. The male was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital by medics, where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.  The scene was held inside. No weapons were recovered nor arrests made at this time.”

The shooter fled the scene and Kruger ran outside, apparently seeking help from neighbors, before he collapsed in the street. There was no sign of forced entry and the motive remains unclear, police said.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, about two weeks ago, Kruger wrote on Facebook that someone came to his house searching for their boyfriend — “a man I’ve never met once in my entire life.” The person called themselves “Lady Diabla, the She-Devil of the Streets” and threatened him, Kruger wrote.

Officer Shawn Ritchie, a police spokesperson, was asked if the police are investigating Kruger’s homicide as a hate crime. 

“This is still an active investigation and we are looking at all motives for this crime,” Ritchie said in an email.

The Inquirer reported that Kruger’s death may have been drug-related, according to three anonymous law-enforcement sources. Investigators reportedly found troubling text messages between Kruger and a former partner as well as methamphetamines inside his bedroom, sources for the Inquirer said.

Officer Tanya Little, a police spokesperson, told PGN a “person of interest” has been identified who might be the shooter. But as of presstime, no arrest had been made. She declined additional comment, other than to note that police are working diligently on the case and public notification will go out if an arrest is made.

According to Kruger’s LinkedIn page, he’s worked as a freelance journalist for the past two years. 

“Journalism work ranges from long-form magazine features requiring deep reporting and high profile interviews, daily news reporting, digital and print formats, commentary, radio, local and national news publications and outlets,” his LinkedIn page states. “Key topics include LGBTQ issues, HIV/AIDS, poverty, drugs, sex, politics, corruption, mental illness, personality profiles, humor, and homelessness.”

Kruger won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, according to his LinkedIn page.

Kruger worked for the City of Philadelphia for about five years, overseeing the mayor’s social media platforms and policy campaigns, and acting as communications director and spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

Additionally, Kruger was an avid bicyclist, an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian, and a parishioner of St. Mark’s Church in Rittenhouse Square. He lived with beloved cat Mason, according to published reports.

District Attorney Larry Krasner issued the following statement: “Josh Kruger lifted up the most vulnerable and stigmatized people in our communities — particularly unhoused people living with addiction. As an openly queer writer who wrote about his own journey surviving substance use disorder and homelessness, it was encouraging to see Josh join the Kenney administration as a spokesperson for the Office of Homeless Services. Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story. As with all homicides, we will be in close contact with the Philadelphia Police as they work to identify the person or persons responsible so that they can be held to account in a court of law. I extend my deepest condolences to Josh’s loved ones and to all those mourning this loss.”

The District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee issued the following statement: “Many of us knew Josh Kruger as a comrade who never stopped advocating for queer Philadelphians living on the margins of society. His struggles mirrored so many of ours — from community rejection, to homelessness, to addiction, to living with HIV, to poverty — and his recovery, survival, and successes showed what’s possible when politicians and elected leaders reject bigotry and work affirmatively to uplift all people. Even while Josh worked for the Mayor, he never stopped speaking out against police violence, politicized attacks on trans and queer people, or the societal discarding of homeless and addicted Philadelphians.

“We are devastated that Josh’s life was ended so violently. We urge anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and prosecution for Josh’s murder to contact the Philadelphia Police or the DA’s Office directly. LGBTQ+ Philadelphians experience violence of all kinds every day; few people used their platforms to remind powerful people in government of that reality as effectively as Josh Kruger did. Josh and the communities he advocated for every day of his life deserve nothing less than justice and accountability for this outrageous crime.”

Celena Morrison-McLean, executive director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, mourned the loss of Kruger.

 “I am heartbroken over the tragic loss of Josh Kruger,” Morrison-McLean said in an email. “Josh was a dedicated public servant, talented journalist, and close friend. I admire his advocacy for those who were often forgotten or invisible, especially the LGBTQ community and people experiencing homelessness. His death is a huge loss for the city of Philadelphia.”

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