Anti-McKie flyer angers Gladwyne neighbors

Posted: July 02, 2008

In the small, exclusive community of Gladwyne, wealthier even than Beverly Hills or Scarsdale, neighbors recently were stunned to discover a flyer, ugly in tone, in their mailboxes.

Where it came from no one knows. Its target, however, was unmistakable: Aaron McKie, the former Temple and 76ers star arrested last week on charges that he tried to buy guns while under a protection-from-abuse order.

It read: "Attention please, read if you care about your neighborhood!!! How can we prevent Aaron McKie from moving into our safe and peaceful neighborhood. His house is almost complete on Youngsford Road. Let's prevent another Iverson from moving in!"

"It was a disgrace," said Joe Brown, who lives a few doors down from McKie's nearly finished stone mansion on Youngs Ford Road and got one of the two-page flyers Saturday. "I have no idea what they were thinking."

Gladwyne residents said they were angry that someone would try to run the player, who was arrested June 23, out of town. Two longtime friends talking outside the post office tsked-tsked when shown the flyer. It's unfair, they said, to target McKie just because he made a mistake.

"The consensus of opinion is how pathetic that some coward feels that they have to send something around like that. We're all trying to find out who it is," said Wally Heppenstall, a Realtor and flower-store owner who has lived in Gladwyne for more than 50 years.

McKie, who was released by the Memphis Grizzlies in May and may rejoin the Sixers as a coach, brushed off the controversy.

"What's new? You know how that stuff goes. They want to try to convict you before you even go on trial," he said. "I have to look into it. I have a family. I'll see what happens."

McKie is accused of trying to buy two guns despite being under a protection-from-abuse order filed on behalf of former girlfriend Kianna Williams, who alleged he threw her to the ground and threatened to kill her in September.

The order bars gun purchases. Authorities said that when filling out forms to buy the pistols in a Montgomery County gun shop April 8, McKie checked a box stating he was not under a restraining order.

He was charged with a felony gun violation and a misdemeanor charge of lying to authorities. The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

In 2001, McKie was under another protection-from-abuse order after Williams, the mother of his daughter, alleged he punched her and dislocated her jaw.

Gladwyne neighbors seemed willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Heppenstall called the gun-form problem a "mistake" and said McKie had done a lot of good for children through his AM8 Foundation, which raises money for school programs, basketball leagues, holiday celebrations, and renovations to the Belfield Recreation Center in East Germantown.

Besides, Heppenstall said, McKie has every right to move into the neighborhood.

Gladwyne postmistress Crystal Vorn said she didn't know who was behind the flyer or how many had been circulated. No one has complained about it, she said, although one mail carrier said he had heard about it from a resident. It's against the law to put anything other than mail in a mailbox, Vorn noted.

"Who would do something like this?" she asked when shown the handout. "They can't say who can move in here and who can't."

She said she might send it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Gladwyne is one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, with an aristocratic country ambiance that many other suburban communities have lost. Its elegantly embellished houses sell, on average, for seven figures.

The community is the home of many local celebrities as well as the merely wealthy and those with venerable Main Line surnames, and many were miffed when helicopters and hordes of reporters interrupted their well-padded peace and quiet every time basketball bad boy Allen Iverson, who lived in a Monk Road manse, ran afoul of the law.

Joseph Cunningham, who owns the Shell station at Youngs Ford and Conshohocken State Roads, said that McKie and Iverson had filled their tanks at his station and that he liked them both.

McKie "is a very nice, very mannerly, very polite guy," he said, adding that the gun problem "was just a mistake."

Michele Seidman, who was filling up at the station, said she had known McKie when she worked in public relations at what is now the Wachovia Center. "He's the nicest guy," she said.

As for the allegations, she said, "It's not like he's a sex offender."

McKie, who grew up in Philadelphia, already has a nice pad. He lives in a $1.8 million French Colonial with five bedrooms and 61/2 baths in Penn Valley.

He played for the Sixers from 1997 to 2005 and spent part of last season as a volunteer assistant coach for the team before joining the Grizzlies. There has been speculation that he might return to the Sixers as a coach.

Several Gladwyne residents said that Iverson, now with the Denver Nuggets, had been a good neighbor, that reporters and curious "tourists" had caused the havoc.

But one longtime resident, Bobbie Willoughby, who was secretary of the Gladwyne Civic Association for 22 years before moving to Bryn Mawr last year, said she wouldn't want to live next to McKie.

"It's a little scary. He totes a gun, and his behavior is a little excessive, like he's out of control. I wouldn't care if an African American moved in next to me, but if he's carrying a gun and he's abusive, I really don't want it," she said.

But others defended the former NBA guard.

"If anything," said Cunningham, "he's an asset to the neighborhood."


Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or kboccella@phillynews.com.

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