For mom, the ultimate horror when son is slain in front of her

Posted: August 22, 2014

TINY SHARDS of glass, gleaming in the sun like diamonds, were scattered yesterday across the top step of the Point Breeze rowhouse where someone shot down Damien James.

James was 16 years old, a kid without a police record. In a few weeks, he would have started his junior year at Audenried High School.

But he's gone now, because someone decided to put two bullets in him as he walked out of a family friend's house on 21st Street near Dickinson shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday.

His mother, Lasha Bradshaw, was with him when a gunman squeezed the trigger in the darkness.

Bradshaw rushed her son to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:35 p.m., said Keishia James, the teen's aunt.

"That was her only son," James said. "She watched her only son die."

The who and why of the slaying remained mysteries yesterday to James' family - and to homicide investigators, who had no suspects or motives to speak of.

It was unclear if James' slaying was related to two other shootings in the area on Wednesday night.

About 9:40 p.m., a 19-year-old man was found shot in the thigh at Dorrance and McKean streets, police said. He was admitted to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in stable condition.

Then, at 11:18 p.m., 9-1-1 dispatchers received a call about a person with a gun on Manton Street near 25th. Cops found a man, shot in the head, slumped in the driver's seat of a Jeep Cherokee. His identity was not available.

As of last night, no suspects had been identified in either incident.

Relatives trickled into Damien James' rowhouse on 31st Street near Reed yesterday afternoon.

Some sobbed. Others sat silently on the cramped front porch, lost in their grief.

Keishia James said her nephew had stayed out of trouble and spent most of his free time at a neighborhood mechanic shop, working on motorbikes and learning how to fix cars.

"He loved to ride bikes, and he loved cars," she said. "I think he would have ended up becoming a mechanic."

When he wasn't working with his hands, the teen liked to go to Sixers and Eagles games with his father, she said.

"He was loved by everybody," she said. "He was like an old soul. He was always smiling, and always laughing."

Keishia James said the teen's parents were too upset to talk to reporters yesterday.

Word of his slaying - and the other two shootings - spread quickly through the neighborhood.

Community activist Anton Moore said he was left "speechless" when he heard that a teenager had been shot to death.

"One murder is one too many, but a 16-year-old . . . that's really tough," said Moore, whose nonprofit, Unity in the Community, stages "Peace Week" activities every summer to keep younger residents out of trouble.

Point Breeze has been a primary target for Focused Deterrence, a law-enforcement effort credited with driving down violent crime since its launch last spring.

Cops, prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials, using a model developed by criminologist David Kennedy, confronted the area's most frequent violent offenders, and warned them to stop shooting - or face harsh consequences.

"It's definitely helping," said Moore, who works with the antiviolence project.

"We have a pocket of 15- to 18-year-olds who have been causing some of the problems," he said. "We have an idea of what's going on, but we have to come up with solutions. And parents have to step up and engage with their kids."

But on 21st Street yesterday, the idea of solving violent crime was far from anyone's mind. There was only fear.

Jacqueline Little, 57, sat on her stoop, a few doors down from the house where Damien James was fatally shot.

"I was sleeping when it happened. I waited for a while before I even looked outside," said Little, who's lived on the block for 25 years. "It's scary around here. I don't even want to come outside any more."

Another neighbor nodded in agreement before muttering: "This world is going to end soon. God is tired of this."


On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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