Cousin charged in West Philadelphia community leader's murder

James Scott and James Hiller

March 1, 2013 7:38:45 AM PST
Police have charged a family member and another man with the murder of a community leader in West Philadelphia.

55-year-old Gregory Scott was gunned down just steps away from his West Philadelphia home Wednesday night.

On Thursday night, police announced 44-year-old James Scott, the victim's cousin, from the 5500 Block of Cherry Street and 25-year-old James Hiller from the 700 Block of North 66th Street have been arrested and charged with murder and related offenses.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark said there had been a long history of bad blood between Gregory and James Scott.

Police say James Scott and Gregory argued outside of the victim's family business, Family Variety and Deli on South 52nd Street, Wednesday night and that the argument escalated into a fist fight.

Gregory then drove home.

It was just after 11:15 p.m. when Scott arrived at his home on the 200 block of South Millick Street in West Philadelphia.

Police say Gregory was getting out of his car, parked across the street from his home, when James opened fire, shooting him multiple times in the face and head.

"James ran up, ambushed him, and fired several shots at him," Clark said.

When emergency crews arrived Scott still had his keys in his hand.

Earlier in the day, James had not yet been charged and was named a 'strong person of interest.'

At that time, Clark said, "I believe an arrest will be imminent."

Gregory's brother-in-law said the family was aware of the earlier fight but never thought it would come to this.

"It was out of the blue. It wasn't like they were on and off feuding. They had a fight and that was his revenge - from a fist fight," brother-in-law William Johnson said.

Edward Oveida, a friend of Gregory's said, "It's hurting my heart right now. You know what I mean? But, he's a great guy."

Homeless advocate Betty Harris was one of many community activists who wanted to talk about the victim.

"We are going to miss him. Really, truly going to miss him," Harris said.

Friends say Gregory's nickname was "Uncle Chops". He fed the homeless, brought under privileged kids on trips to Eagles training camp, and served as drill captain for the Goldcoast Buccaneers, which is a mentor program created to provide life skills to kids.

"We kept them out of harm's way. We had drill team practice with them. We had homework programs. We did everything," Harris said.

Friend Bob Young explains, "He was in it since he was 9, 10 years old. And he dedicated his whole life to the community."

Family and friends say Gregory was married for 20 years and had five children. One of those children works as a paramedic for the City of Philadelphia and rushed to the scene after hearing the address on the radio.

A $20,000 reward was being offered for information leading to an arrest.