ATLANTIC CITY — Philip Brooks was praying inside his Presbyterian Avenue home Sunday morning when he heard gun shots ring out, a sound he first thought was a loud fender bender.
Then, chaos broke loose on the small street, he said, where a close-knit neighborhood of about six or seven families lives in usual harmony.
Police flooded the street to respond to shots that killed youth football coach Demond Tally, a staple in the community.
“He was a good part of this neighborhood,” said Brooks, who grew up with Tally. “He was a dedicated father and a really, really decent guy.”
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has not released the names or descriptions of any suspects and called the incident an active investigation. Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Donna Weaver declined to provide any additional details on the shooting.
Tally, 45, was leaving Council President Marty Small’s house and walking to his own home a few doors down when he was shot. The two were longtime friends.
“Only 20 steps away,” said Small outside his house on Monday. He declined to comment further. The yellow police tape and cop cars that lined the street the day before were gone.
Tally, an Atlantic City Dolphins coach, mentored hundreds of children since joining the peewee league in 2003. Less than three years ago, his family suffered the loss of Tally’s 21-year-old son Demond Cottman, who was shot and killed in a Hamilton Mall parking lot. No one was charged.
Atlantic City resident Nickkie Fischer said her young son was coached by Tally and looked up to him.
“(He) was always about the youth and helping anyone in need,” Fischer said.
Childhood friend Eric Ward, who now lives in Indiana, said he last caught up with Tally in July. He called Tally a “self-made celebrity” in Atlantic City who kept kids on the football team “focused and determined.”
“What he ... did for our youth football team, Atlantic City Dolphins, was nothing short of amazing,” Ward said.
Tally’s death marks Atlantic City’s fourth homicide in 2019, and was part of a violent weekend in the city. A mile from where Tally was shot and killed, a 32-year-old man stabbed his neighbor to death in the Inlet Towers.
In 2018, there were seven murders in the city, according to Uniform Crime Report data released by State Police, a drop from 13 the year before.
“He was a big brother to everyone. It’s a tragedy,” said Councilman Jeffree Fauntleroy, who was friends with Tally. “We need to be more vigilant and active. ... We have to stay on the people who patrol these communities and make sure they know what’s going on.”
Funeral services for Tally will be held Tuesday at the All Wars Memorial Building on Adriatic Avenue. The time has not been determined.