A Feud That Turned Violent Lands A Neighbor In Prison Court Has Last Word In Shooting: Guilty.

Posted: July 03, 1996

It started years ago with dolls and toys children left on a porch. It escalated when a fence was built across the yard to keep out the basketballs. And it culminated in a shooting through a mail slot.

The long feud between next-door neighbors Cordell Harris and Julius Bracy finally ended yesterday when a Common Pleas Court jury convicted Bracy of shooting Harris in the back. A judge revoked bail and sent Bracy to jail, much to the approval of his West Philadelphia neighbors, several of whom were in the courtroom.

Residents of the 6200 block of Catharine Street had watched from the sidelines and finally took sides last September in a dispute that seems to go back at least 18 years, to when Harris, a tractor-trailer driver, moved next door to Bracy, a one-time substitute teacher for the Philadelphia School District.

Bracy did not like Harris' children, then 5 and 9, who dropped their toys and bounced their balls in his yard. At one point, Bracy sued the Harris family for trespassing.

Eight years ago, Bracy filed a complaint after Harris built a fence to keep his children's balls from going into Bracy's yard.

``He didn't like that and tried to cut it down,'' Harris said.

Each neighbor has filed complaints against the other.

If neighbors had any doubt about whose side they were on, Bracy's attack erased them.

After the incident, they banded together to get Bracy locked up. They lobbied City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. They signed petitions, and 40 to 50 packed a bail hearing, persuading a judge to raise Bracy's bail to $75,000 to keep him behind bars until trial.

Yesterday, Harris, his wife, Wanda, and a handful of neighbors were on hand, quietly cheering, when jurors convicted Bracy of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering Harris. Bracy was acquitted of two other charges.

``I'm satisfied with the verdicts. However, I think he deserves more than just five to 10 years in prison,'' Harris said. ``I have to live with the non-use of my thumb for the rest of my life and the limited use of my shoulder. I can't go outside without a shirt now because of the scars.''

Bracy was found guilty of shooting Harris in the back after aiming a shotgun through the mail slot in his front door Sept. 27.

The shot tore through Harris' right shoulder as he was leaving for work. After Harris fell to the ground, Bracy ran out, stood over him, and pointed the shotgun at his head, according to court testimony.

``I told you I was going to kill you,'' Bracy yelled, according to Harris' testimony. ``Now I'm going to do it.''

Harris said he had reached to knock the gun away when Bracy fired again, blowing off part of his left thumb. Bullet fragments showered his pelvis and thigh.

Assistant District Attorney Carmen Lineberger said Bracy faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five to 10 years for an aggravated assault with a gun. Common Pleas Court Judge Murray C. Goldman promptly revoked the defendant's bail and sent him to prison pending sentencing Aug. 23.

Sitting in the front row of the courtroom, Thelma Marshall, who has lived on Catharine Street almost 40 years - 35 of them across the street from Bracy - said the conviction gives the street something it had not seen in a while: peace of mind.

Bracy was ``just so mean and nasty,'' Marshall said. ``He cussed at the children in the neighborhood. He'd yell at them to get off the tennis court. Even children in the street riding their bikes, he'd come out and tell them they were making too much noise.''

Bracy, who neighbors said had been married twice but has lived alone for years, denied accusations that he shot Harris by wrapping a shotgun in newspaper, then aiming it through his mail slot.

He testified that neighborhood children had trampled his grass and flowers. Balls were tossed into his yard, and people vandalized his cars and broke into his home, he said. He blamed the Harris family.

Bracy admitted under cross-examination that he disliked Harris. The morning of the shooting, he testified, he heard a noise next door and took his shotgun from under the radiator. He said he wanted to protect himself because his home had been broken into many times.

Bracy contended that the shotgun ``just went off'' as Harris left his front steps. He denied firing a second shot while standing over his neighbor.

``Neighbors say he was jealous of me because I have a family. I have a job that I've been on for years, and I have nice things,'' Harris said of Bracy.

``It was just like he had some kind of jealous vendetta,'' Lineberger said. ``He stewed and boiled and fussed and would take him [Harris] to court over dolls and over a basketball court in the yard.''

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