East Germantown: 3 murders, 1 month – drugs a factor, neighbors say

Three shooting deaths have hit the Awbury area of East Germantown in the last month, two within one block of each other.  Residents worry about retaliations.

The shooting of 37-year-old James Battle of Britten Street on Christmas Eve in the Awbury View Apartment complex has gotten people especially on edge.

“It’s quiet now, but it ain’t over,” said one resident who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “The neighborhood is mad.”

A police spokesman said no arrests had been made in any of the three shootings. Captain Joel Dales of the 14th Police District said he’s beefed up patrols in the area.

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Following the killing of James Battle, Don Gladden of East Godfrey Avenue was shot and killed on or near the 700 block of Rittenhouse Street (see link on this page) and most recently, on Jan. 14, Charles Johnson of Lansdowne was shot and killed on the 6300 block of Musgrave Street – just one block from the first shooting.

Neighbors do not seem to think any of the crimes are related.

But while police may appear stuck on finding suspects, the street chatter indicates that neighbors think they know who killed James Battle.

“People know. Of course they know,” said the same resident.

She knew Battle well and said he was well liked in the neighborhood. She held him in her arms after he stumbled down to the corner store Christmas Eve with a bullet in his stomach. She said the ambulance took 35 minutes to arrive. Battle was pronounced dead at Albert Einstein Medical Center around three hours later.

The Rev. Chester Williams, who lives about a half block away, helped to organize a vigil after Battle’s death. At that event, Battle’s mother asked community members not to retaliate for the murder.

But neighbors say there has already been one beating in retaliation, and that they expect the shooter is in hiding as much from Battle’s acquaintances as from police.

Asked if drugs were related to the crime, the residents said Battle got into a fist fight with a younger man because Battle was trying to stop him from dealing in the apartment complex. The younger man shot him during the fight, the neighbors said.

The neighbors said James Battle was not involved with drugs; rather he was an important part of the community, and a father of five children.

The neighbors also believe Battle’s shooter and the crowd he runs with were not from the immediate neighborhood.

Other nearby residents do not seem to believe the shooting of 18-year-old Charles Johnson of Lansdowne one block away on Jan. 14 was related. And residents on the 700 block of Rittenhouse also think the killing there of Don Gladden on Jan. 3 was unrelated.

Most assume, though, that drugs played a role in those crimes.

Again neighbors had theories about the Jan. 14 shooting of Johnson on Musgrave. They said a car filled with four young men in hoodies was sitting idle on the block and that made local drug dealers nervous enough to approach the car.  The exchange went badly and ended with multiple gunshots into the vehicle, according to neighbors who also asked not to be identified.

The 14th’s Capt. Dales said the best thing would be if neighbors came forward with the information they have.

“That’s some of the stuff that people weren’t telling us,” he said of the information about the Battle case. “I speak with Homicide every week to check for updates. But if the public knows who these people are, have them reach out and help us solve this case.”


The number for tips to the police homicide division: 215-686-3334 or 3335.

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