87-year-old veteran, "neighborhood fixture" gunned down

WEST OAK LANE - August 19, 2010

Police say the call came just after 4:00 p.m. of a single shot being fired and an elderly man down on the ground.

That man has been identified as 87-year-old George Graves, a Navy veteran and a survivor of World War II.

He was gunned down in his own front yard in broad daylight.

"The man was found on the ground in front of his garage, approximately 5 feet away from the sidewalk," Philadelphia Police Sergeant Dave Merrick said.

Police believe the shooting may have been connected to a robbery that occurred blocks away minutes before.

Witnesses tell investigators they recall seeing two people, a man and a woman, dressed in what they describe as a Muslim garb, running from the scene of the shooting.

Michael Irvin was inside his house, just two doors down, when the shooting happened.

"I was sitting in the house with the kids and next thing you know, my mom comes in and she was panicked like somebody got shot. I didn't know what was going on," Irvin said. "So I walked outside back with her and that's when I discovered him laying on the ground. He was curled up."

Though Graves lived alone, loved ones appeared on the scene distraught; one had to be carried inside.

Neighbors all say he was a staple on the block, always fixing his yard, keeping to himself, but quick to share a neighborly smile or wave.

Though senseless, and seemingly random, some here say a scene like this was only a matter of time.

They say a once safe neighborhood has been slowly overcome with crime.

And now that crime has claimed an 87-year-old veteran.

"As long as I can remember, I grew up in this neighborhood since I was three years old, and I remember this guy being here and it's really tragic," neighbor Chris Diggles said.

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