The sign outside Stan Oliver’s Moxham auto shop is a plea for peace in troubling times.
“Please stop the killings,” it says.
But it’s Oliver’s own story that the Philadelphia native believes could serve as a lesson for those foolishly embracing the street life of crime and violence, he said.
“That was me,” he said Monday, standing inside American Stan Auto on Rear Coleman Avenue, holding a newspaper article detailing his arrest after a brazen escape attempt at his brother’s Philadelphia funeral in 1997.
Gun violence claimed his brother just days earlier and Oliver, then a 16-year-old youth corrections center inmate, was given a supervised chance to pay his respects.
He took it – and then took off, relying on two gun-wielding friends to escort him from the funeral to temporary freedom before police tracked him down.
“I robbed. I stole. I made enough mistakes to fill a book,” said Oliver, now 33. “That’s why I can tell people that life’s not worth it. There’s a lesson these kids can learn ... if they listen.”
He said he’s noticed the news detailing recent “senseless” killings in Johnstown, including the a shooting Sunday in Oakhurst that claimed 42-year-old Tyrone Williams of Grass Avenue.
The trend paints a far different picture of the town from the stories he’d heard from friends, who recall not-long-ago times when gun violence was rare.
“That’s why I put up the sign (earlier this year),” said Oliver, whose family made Johnstown home after visiting cousins on Cypress Avenue.
He’s proud of his Moxham auto shop, which opened five months ago, and said it was time he put his talents to good use.
And he’s always willing to share his story with those struggling with their choices, he said.
Oliver said his mother died when he was 11 years old and he embraced the street life – and the lure of easy money – at a young age.
“Even after I became a father, I didn’t learn right away,” Oliver said. “I kept making the same mistakes. I thought, ‘Well, I have to make money to provide for them,’ so I kept at it.”
Oliver said his children are now 7 and 11.
“At some point you realize, it’s just not worth it,” Oliver said, describing himself as a changed man.
“The life gets old and you realize it just isn’t worth it anymore,” he said. “No matter how good it might seem – it’s going to catch up to you.”
Follow Tribune-Democrat reporter David Hurst on Twitter @TDDavidHurst.