April 26, 2018
The details resemble a straight-to-DVD movie plot about feuding neighbors but the photos, videos, court records, police reports and text-message responses bring them squarely into reality.
Each piece of the mounting evidence is as befuddling – and to those involved, unsettling – as the next:
• The upside-down crucifix – topped by the head of Satan – out in the garden
• The consistent use of a bullhorn to order an egged-on dog to “shut the f*** up”
• Complaints of alleged racist and sexist language, and harassment
• Weird notes left in neighbors' mailboxes until postal inspectors stepped in
• Bricks and lightbulbs reportedly flying through the air
• And a YouTube channel dedicated to videos of the neighborhood block captain “driving illegally”
It was the videos of the block captain that shifted public opinion against the man at the center of the maelstrom, he says, leaving him alone and cornered by neighbors who despise him even though his aim was just to make the neighborhood a better place.
Among the crazier memories shared by neighbors in North Philadelphia is the antagonist “dressed like the Gordon’s fisherman,” scraping a hoe across the sidewalk in the middle of the city. (One neighbor called it “audio intimidation.”)
The neighbors also allege the man has called police with false accusations of domestic violence or shots fired.
The list could – and does – go on, right through last Sunday night, when police from two agencies swarmed the block only to find the man who called them there allegedly yelling at them with a megaphone.
Everybody involved says they wish the madness would end, but that doesn't seem very likely.
The tempest that brought Eric Scott and his girlfriend, Jennifer Quinn, to Center City earlier this month to seek a restraining order against a neighbor who rubs many people the wrong way started four or five years ago.
Scott has lived in the city’s Yorktown area for the bulk of his life. It’s far from the fanciest of neighborhoods, but the view of the skyline from the deck behind his Oxford Street home is worthy of a postcard.
"My neighbors have spent years f***ing with me. Be careful what you do with their lies. I have video of any neighbor that has and does continue to f*** with me." – Jim Stix, Yorktown resident
The friction that’s consumed many people – and police – in a neighborhood quite literally in the shadows of the Temple University campus started with a sternly-worded note from a man who often sits on his stoop not far from Scott's deck.
“Would you please remove the wind chimes from your porch?” it read in part. “Whenever I sit outside and hear the wind chimes, it makes me hate you and it makes me angry that you think your noise producing ornament is more important than my well-being or peace of mind."
It ended with a harsh warning: “I don’t want to have a conversation with either of you anytime soon, so please don’t try.”
That note was signed by Jim Stix, who lives in a rowhome set back from North 13th Street between West Oxford and Jefferson streets.
In the Reddit world, Stix was known as Redwoodser until he recently got in trouble for doxxing a city employee who logged too many hours on the site while on the clock.
To officers from Temple University and Philadelphia police’s 22nd District, he’s the source of – or reason for – numerous calls of varying levels of importance and validity.
To City Councilman at-large Bill Greenlee, who intervened on behalf of residents last year, he’s “a stone-cold nut ball.”
When lightbulbs were thrown on their deck on a recent Friday night, Scott and Quinn decided the time for something to change had arrived.
“It can be funny until it’s directed at you,” Scott said, sitting at a Reading Terminal Market table after filing a report about Stix with the Philadelphia Council on Human Relations. “But it seems like it’s getting more violent.”
If the police can’t get a handle on the situation – which, from the looks of things, they cannot – they figure going public might. That's what prompted a half dozen neighbors to speak up this week and, upon learning they had done so, for Stix to mount his defense.
Several attempts to reach Stix on Monday – via phone call, text message and knocks on the front door – for his response to neighbors' complaints about Sunday night's incident – and earlier occurrences – were unsuccessful.
A return to his front door on Tuesday morning was met with a two-word text-message response: "Go away."
A half hour after I went away, Stix responded more than a dozen times via text and email.
"My neighbors have spent years f***ing with me," he wrote. "Be careful what you do with their lies. I have video of any neighbor that has and does continue to f*** with me."
Later in the day, Stix – a tall, lean 56-year-old with graying hair who idolizes Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali – invited me over to hear his own complaints and limited denials. Over the course of nearly two hours, he alternated between rage and tearful desperation.
An online paper trail lays out his path to North 13th Street. It started with a 2010 Philadelphia Weekly article headlined: “Pissing Match: A Broad Street bully battles local business owners.”
That story detailed a disagreement that Stix had with a pair of businesses near his former apartment on North Broad Street – less than a mile away from his current home.
Detailing his fight with Cobre Restaurant and Bar and the since-closed Coo’s Sports Bar, the story noted, “Having failed to stop the club from getting licensed, Stix is trying other tactics.”
The story referenced “television monitors in his fourth-floor apartment” to keep watch on activity out front. And a microphone wired to a loudspeaker outside that made it easier to chase people away.
“If people don’t move promptly, neighbors say, Stix is prone to screaming and throwing water on them, though Stix claims he only throws water next to loiterers to encourage them to move,” reported the article.
To this day, he's upset that story labeled him a "bully." He sees himself as anything but.
Stix got chased out of that apartment shortly after that story ran. (He said someone fired a bullet into his apartment.) Property records show the deed to his North 13th Street residence being transferred in July 2011.
By the fall of 2014, he gained attention in Yorktown by “interrupting the attack” on a Temple student by two juvenile girls.
Philadelphia Municipal Court records state that Stix was charged with terroristic threats and harassment in an unrelated incident in October 2014. (His last name is spelled Stixs in those records.)
Six months later, he was found guilty of a harassment charge brought on by a private criminal complaint. He was sentenced to nine months of probation and subject to a stay-away order and to undergo a mental health evaluation. His appeal was unsuccessful.
That harassment conviction grew out of something that caught Betty Gladney’s eye as she sat down to dinner with her aunt and uncle around 4 p.m. on October 14, 2014.
When she looked at her surveillance-system monitor, she saw Stix poking and kicking at the bricks on her front walkway with “an object resembling a golf club with a pointy end,” according to court documents.
When Gladney and her guests went outside to ask what he was doing, Stix “responded by calling them b****es and m*********ers” and shouted that “nobody is going to tell him where he can walk and what he can do.”
They’d had run-ins before.
Police responded – for the first of four times that day – and told Stix to stay away from Gladney’s property, a few doors down from his.
When they left, Stix “returned to the street swinging the club and shouting ‘anybody want to die tonight? You want to die tonight, b****?” according to Gladney's complaint.
Stix appealed the conviction, citing evidence that he was provoked and claiming the commonwealth didn’t prove its case. He also thought the public defender sandbagged him.
This week, he didn't entirely deny what had happened in that case, but said evidence that should have been presented in court wasn't. He also alleges that Gladney had been harassing him because he pushed back against neighbors who put orange cones in public parking spots to prevent Temple students from using them.
“Given this tempestuous past, it was reasonable for the fact-finder to infer that (Stix) intended to harass, annoy or alarm the victim,” read the Superior Court’s August 2016 decision to uphold the conviction.
As he sat a desk in his living room on Tuesday afternoon, Stix staunchly maintained he is the victim.
On the computer in front of him were folders containing hundreds of videos he'd recorded of neighbors since he arrived in Yorktown. (One of them shows a former neighbor charging toward his front door while threatening to throw a huge rock at him.)
Those videos are labeled with derogatory terms to describe the people with whom he had rarely gotten along.
Jim Stix does not have much of a filter.
He once distributed a two-page list of “what I have given to people I do, or once cared for" since moving to North 13th Street. Among the entries:
• “Fixed the front storm door for Cynthia, while her husband Caesar was in jail”
• “Told Caesar that I no longer wanted him in my life, after he continually used his religion to judge me and try and hurt me”
• “Told Helen I love her at least 40 different times”
• “Told Helen loudly not to interrupt me once”
• “Gave Trish or Patricia 18 dollars over her asking price of 2 dollars for a chair she was selling”
• “Videotaped Trish driving around in front of my house screaming ‘f*** that white man’ over and over and over again”
To hear neighbors tell it, this was Stix’s way of gaining leverage should conflicts arise. Not so, said Stix.
"Everything I have done in this neighborhood has been to improve it and defend myself while under attack," he said. "My suffering on 13th Street has been nothing short of biblical. Please hurt me no more."
Corinthia Johnson is the block captain on the 1500 block of North 13th Street.
To Stix, she is a city employee worthy of a YouTube page regularly updated with videos of her “driving illegally.” She's also the root of all his problems, he said, after one of his videos resulted in her getting a traffic ticket. He claims she's leveled threats against his safety.
This week, she rued the fact that the security cameras outside her home “don’t stick out far enough to capture everything he does.” She keeps a whole file of legal documents regarding the issues on the block, and gave that information to Greenlee's office when it intervened.
“The man is crazy and the police don’t do anything about it,” she alleged last week. “He comes out of the house, yelling profanities, n*****, b****es. … He’s already threatened to kill me.”
Stix responded that Johnson is the real problem on the block, and sent along a video of her using profanity toward him.
He said she's rallied neighbors against him and even headed over to Broad Street to gather information from the club owner he battled in 2010.
His relationship with Johnson, he said, is the root of all the complaints that PhillyVoice laid out for him.
Johnson told PhillyVoice last week that she hopes to talk to District Attorney Larry Krasner to see if his office can help resolve the never-ending conflict.
She’s the reason that Greenlee was drawn into the saga. He told PhillyVoice that he dealt with the case personally. When he didn’t hear back from Johnson in the past year, he figured it’d resolved itself. It’s done anything but.
“Anywhere he goes, he’s going to be a menace to society. … He calls the police m*********ers and they just go away, saying he’s crazy," Johnson alleged. "Mayhem. That’s what he is.
“He’s dangerous, really dangerous. He’ll call the cops telling them we have guns and SWAT ends up at my door. Police keep coming and coming and coming. I asked them, ‘You ain’t tired of coming to these false calls?’ They say we have to come out when we get a call.”
Stix claimed Johnson encourages other people to mess with him.
The continued stress of the situation, he said direly, has left him contemplating taking his own life.
Yorktown's proximity to Temple University presents an interesting wrinkle to police responses in the neighborhood. Both campus and 22nd District officers have waded into the mess.
When asked to comment, Philadelphia police's public affairs unit said "if we have releasable information on this incident, we will send it your way." As of Wednesday afternoon, they hadn't.
City police also said they were unable to provide information on a request for statistics regarding 911 calls to an exact address without an approved "Right to Know" form. That request, which was submitted, didn't not draw a response before this story was published.
Brandon Lausch, a spokesman for Temple University, said that campus security is well aware of Stix. They've fielded numerous reports about "vulgar language, throwing objects at people and excessive noise."
"We take these complaints seriously, and are committed to keeping people in the area safe." – Brandon Lausch, Temple University spokesman
"The overarching message is that we take these complaints seriously, and are committed to keeping people in the area safe," he said, noting that they're "collaborating with the 22nd District to figure out what else can be done."
Neighbors reported that officers with both departments were on hand Sunday night when a call came in involving Ruben Rivera and his wife, Daisy Toledo.
They live on Oxford Street and their backyard faces the front of Stix's home. Stix is regularly infuriated by their pit bull dog, which he can hear barking when he's outside – even if the animal is inside the Rivera home.
“(Stix) told the police my wife shot at him and, of course, they came to my house like my wife was a criminal until she explained the situation,” Rivera said Monday morning. “All the cops, they were banging on my door really hard. They made my wife sit down on the steps like she really shot at him.
“He gets away with this all the time and they just don’t understand. After they left (Sunday night), he was out there in the dark facing us. He constantly films my house when we’re out on the yard.”
In the Sunday incident – for which Toledo is still waiting for an official report from police – Rivera said Stix told police “that b**** with the dog, does she want to die?”
“They came here like she was a hardened criminal, but no one heard any shots,” he recalled. “Nothing was done. This is really crazy.”
On Tuesday, Stix said he called police because he genuinely believed that Toledo shot at him when he was outside. When he realized that wasn't the case, he hypothesized that Rivera had thrown a brick at him.
When police returned to his front door, he refused to go outside, speaking to them through a bullhorn from his second-floor window. (Stix said he uses the bullhorn, which hangs on a hook right next to his front door, so he can communicate without having to scream at them.)
The end result? Stix received a code violation ticket for making threats and causing a disturbance, which isn't the type of thing that gives neighbors hope about the situation improving.
“We’ve lived here for 24 years. No problems or anything," Rivera said. "He’s lived here five years and all these problems start.
“I went after him one day but the cops stopped me. They were about to lock me up. He’s nothing but trouble.”
When Eric Scott and Jennifer Quinn headed to Center City last week, their first stop was the District Attorney’s office. There, they were directed to call the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ (PCHR) dispute resolution program.
PCHR communications director Rachel Hooper said the agency is “never able to disclose anything about cases in our office.”
The couple, however, did disclose what prompted their trip as they sat at a table in Reading Terminal Market shortly after calling PCHR. Scott had a manila folder filled with photos he’d taken and copies of letters distributed by Stix in the neighborhood.
He spoke about what happened the previous weekend.
“We were sitting on our deck and he berated us with a bullhorn all night,” Scott said. “That was followed by him throwing lightbulbs at us up on the deck. The police were called, pictures were taken and he ran in his house.”
He shared Stix’s note about the wind chimes and noted that they’d tied them up at night out of courtesy.
Still, “it went from 0 to 60 quickly,” he said.
He started noticing Stix getting into arguments with other neighbors, claiming he “heard what you were saying about me.” One time, he yelled “If you have no business here, get the f*** off my porch” at responding officers.
“I’ve never heard the ‘c’ word so much in my life,” Quinn admitted.
He hearkened back to a run-in he’d had about three years ago. Scott admittedly confronted Stix “when it looked like he was casing our house.”
“Sure enough, a Temple cop was footsteps away behind the wall looking. When he came around the corner, this idiot had a garden hoe behind his back,” recalled Scott. The officer told Stix to “put it down before I put you down.”
Later, "he apologized,” Scott said. “I told him all I want you to do is leave us alone. That’s it.”
That didn’t happen.
Then, he breaks out the pictures he took from his back deck. They include images of the lightbulbs thrown earlier this month, and pictures of Stix installing that Satan head in his garden, facing the back of Scott’s house.
The head sits above an upside-down cross reading “Fascist Erico” and a sign stating “Fascistic Low-Life Drunkard Pissant F*** You A****** … 2 Selfish B****es.”
But Stix offered a much different version of these events, starting with the assertion that Scott, who he deemed a "sadistic piece of s***," responded profanely to his wind-chimes request. (He said he asked that the wind chimes be removed because they "remind me of my mother and the period of time when I was in high school and she tried to commit suicide.")
"At times, the stress has been unbearable. Soul-crushing, even." – Jim Stix, resident of the Yorktown neighborhood in North Philadelphia
He also had an explanation for the Satan imagery.
"[Scott] started screaming at me that he would not remove the wind chimes, and that I could go to hell," Stix said. "This same man, one night when he was drunk, called me the devil because the block captain told him that I don't believe in God. I responded by making several handmade signs that he could look at all day, and placed them in my driveway."
Quinn said she’s feared for her life – hearing references to purported “firebombs” before the lightbulbs crashed on their deck tends to do that to people – and that upsets Scott.
“I’m born and raised in Philadelphia, and this is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, resigned to the fact that nothing seems likely to change any time soon. “The only thing you can do is keep calling the police.
“It’s getting progressively worse and nobody’s listening. If I do something about it, I’ll be the one that goes to jail. He’s crazy like a fox. He knows what he’s doing. That’s the most frustrating part.”
Jim Stix speaks with an intensity that keeps you on edge. His tone bends toward the yelling end of the spectrum. During our meeting, he used a lot of profanity.
It doesn't take long to get the sense that he feels trapped in his rowhome, especially since he has very few allies in the neighborhood and fewer close friends to whom he can vent. He breaks down in tears telling the story of a longtime friend who recently died.
He said he considers himself a hermit, a prisoner in his own home even, but doesn't deny many of the accusations that neighbors have made against him.
"I have suffered more since moving in here than I've ever suffered in my life." – Jim Stix
His perspective on the circumstances around the dust-ups differs considerably from those on the other side, though.
"I'm a victim of these sociopaths, these people who don't want to change. I have suffered more since moving in here than I've ever suffered in my life," Stix said.
Of allusions to his mental health, he added, "There's nothing wrong with me. I'm just an angry person, but I'm not a violent person."
When his cat Eve jumped off the couch and ran upstairs, Stix recalled that Gladney sparked their animosity by yelling at him as he walked Eve on the sidewalk outside her house, but not on her property.
To support his stance, he's quick to share the video of her screaming at him, and then of police arriving to mediate the dispute in 2014.
Stix, who moved to the city from Wallingford, Delaware County in 1985, framed himself as a guardian of Temple University students, fighting back against neighbors who take issue with the school expanding in their neighborhood.
The parking issue is a hotspot. He said neighbors use the "savesies" method to block off public spots; he thinks that's wrong, and doesn't hesitate to let that be known.
"Their bullying of me is unacceptable," he said. "I've gotten death threats because of my lying, a***** neighbors. I have PTSD from living in Philly."
Though he admits much of the bickering is steeped in race relations, Stix said he is vehemently anti-racist. (He's heard "f*** that white guy" yelled at him on numerous occasions.)
"I grew up knowing I would hate racist people," he shared.
He hearkened back to memories of an African-American girlfriend from West Philadelphia named Dawn who encouraged him to stand up for himself while living in predominantly non-white neighborhoods. (He also said that he's felt alone since the girlfriend with whom he moved to North 13th Street left him.)
So why doesn't he just move if he doesn't like his neighbors?
"Because I deserve to be treated with respect," he said. "If I leave, they win. They told Martin Luther King Jr. not to go to the south. Well, he did. This is just like what happened to MLK."
Talking about his parents, both deceased, brings him to tears. After his mother died of brain cancer, he had a falling out with his brother that led Stix to disown him. The reason he stays near Temple University are his late father's ties to Milton Rock, an honorary university trustee for life.
"I've looked after Temple students for seven years so that I may thank Milt for what he did for my family," said Stix, noting that Rock made his father a management consulting business partner.
He plans to donate his home to Temple University when he dies.
"My parents taught me right from wrong," he continued. "At times, the stress has been unbearable. Soul-crushing, even. My response to them? Years and years of their attempts to f*** with me will not be met with silence. There is so much pain inside me."
Several times during our interactions, Stix said that he hopes this story doesn't deepen that pain. This is a portrait of a man staring point blank at his breaking point.
I asked him what he wanted people to think about after reading about his neighborhood war and go back to their lives. He emailed a response a few hours later:
"Perhaps the last words of your article could be these very words, this quote, spoken by a man that was in a pistol duel many years ago with my ancestor Waightstill Avery, the first attorney general of North Carolina.
"It takes a lot of courage to stand up to sociopaths and bullies and liars that refuse to respect other people and or the law, and I have paid a very high price emotionally and physically in this neighborhood, to say the least, while standing up for what is right and defending myself against anyone that would attack me or abuse me or harass me or threaten me.
"Long live Milt Rock. Long live Temple University. And long live love."
Then, he signed off with a quote from former President Andrew Jackson: "One man with courage makes a majority."