Mayor: York City man was holding baby when he was fatally shot

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York City's first homicide victim of 2018 was inside a home and holding a baby when he was gunned down by someone outside shooting inside "blindly," York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said.

The mayor called it disgusting that Matthew Alexander Bell, 32, was holding the 1-year-old at the time of the shooting, about 8:40 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, in the 200 block of South Penn Street.

"Whoever was shooting was shooting at a baby — was shooting in a house completely blindly. At a baby," he said in a Facebook Live address to residents Tuesday. "I'm just shocked. ... You shot at a baby. What the hell is wrong with you?"

A home at 206 South Penn St., in York City, shown Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Matthew Alexander Bell, 32, was shot and killed and a 17-year-old wounded Monday night when shots were fired into the back of the home. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York City Police Lt. Gene Fells, who supervises the city detective bureau, confirmed whoever killed Bell shot into the home from outside.

"We know we have at least one shooter," Fells told The York Dispatch.

A 17-year-old in the home suffered a gunshot wound to his left side and was taken to York Hospital, police have said. 

Fells said hospital staff have told police the teen is in stable condition.

Someone targeted: Detectives have leads they are following, according to Fells, and he noted the investigation is in the early stages. Still, there are things detectives already know:

"Somebody in that home was targeted," he said, but he added detectives don't yet know who the intended target was.

Bell, who lived in York City, was shot from behind, according to Helfrich.

"It's one thing to be involved in gang violence," the mayor said in his Tuesday address. "But when you're just randomly shooting up places? My God, you're going straight to hell."

The baby Bell was holding wasn't his child, the mayor said.

The mayor said he met with Bell's girlfriend and her mother and provided them with a phone number normally given out to people targeted by York City's version of the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) initiative.

Reaching out: The number links people to all kinds of services and assistance, including job training and placement; food, clothing and housing issues; and emotional support.

He urged people to "please let our police know" if anyone has information about Bell's homicide that might help solve the case.

York City interim Police Chief Troy Bankert said the GVI initiative has been expanded to include help for the victims of shootings and the survivors of homicide victims.

That support and outreach is now being initiated more quickly, Bankert said, and on a proactive basis.

"It was something I was already trying to do before I became mayor — to help any families of victims of violence," Helfrich said.

There's also another component York City is adding to its GVI effort, he said, "which is to try to reach people before there's a ... retaliation strike."

More:York City's shootings drop by half, GVI credited for reduction

More:Initiative lays down law on gun violence, offers 2nd chance

More:Grieving mother begs for gun violence to stop

Thwarting retaliation: Officials intend to reach out to families of homicide victims to urge them not to respond with violence of their own, which could lead to another member of an already-grieving family being killed or imprisoned, he said.

"There can be a strong emotional response to seek revenge in the heat of the moment, but that only harms the family of the victim even more," Helfrich said. "My goal as mayor, and my goal with our GVI initiative, is to get to that family as soon as possible so there isn't a second violent crime that spins off of the first one."

An autopsy for Bell is set for 8 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Anyone with information is asked to call York City Police at 717-846-1234, or text "Yorktips" and your information to 847-411. The texting service is anonymous.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.