“Now when we drive down the street it won’t be as sad”: City honors elderly man who was killed with street sign

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Lawmakers and loved ones have unveiled a new sign on Richmond’s Southside in memory of 80-year-old Johnny Battle. The 3100 block of Decatur Street is now deemed ‘Johhny R. Battle Way.’

The new sign at the intersection of 32nd Street and Decatur Street is named after Johnny Rufus Battle, who was brutally beaten to death in his neighborhood in April of 2018. His killer, 43-year-old Michael Kevin Mcreynolds, was charged and later convicted with Battle’s murder.

Family members, friends and neighbors attended the unveiling on Saturday, September 12th to show their support. Also in attendance were City Council members Reva Trammell, Kim Gray and Ellen Robertson and State Representative Joe Morrissey.

Battle’s great grandson was the one to unveil the sign, and Battle’s granddaughter, Chanel Fields, took in the moment as she watched her son.

“It’s showing the community cares about what happened,” said Fields.

Fields remembers the vivid details about the day she found out her grandfather was killed.

The new sign at the intersection of 32nd Street and Decatur Street is named after Johnny Rufus Battle, who was brutally beaten to death in his neighborhood in April of 2018. 

“I couldn’t believe it. My mother didn’t want to tell me but then she started to explain why he was really in the hospital,” said Fields.

She was told the tragic details of Battle’s death after attending various court appearances and watching video recordings.

“At one point it sounded like you could hear my grandpa calling for help. It was tough to sit there and watch that and have to hold your reaction in,” said Fields.

She recalls several memories on the 3100 block of Decatur Street. Fields once watched her grandfather work on cars in the backyard.

According to family members, Battle was hardworking and very well known in the neighborhood. He would share wisdom and partake in conversation with many of his neighbors. Battle moved to Decatur Street in 1979.

His neighbor, Leonard Jones has been a friend of the Battle family for 40 years.

“It makes me feel good when I’m sitting on the porch. I was sitting there this morning eating a banana and I looked up and there was the sign and it made me think about Johnny all over,” said Jones. “We talked everyday or every other day. He was a good man.”

His daughter, Sheila Fields grew up in the home. For her, the tragic situation has produced something positive. Fields calls the new sign a ‘historical landmark.’ 

“Now when we drive down the street we won’t be as sad. It’ll be a joyous occasion,” said Fields. “I can vision him smiling right now. They did this for me? It’s a beautiful thing.”

Fields is appreciative to the City of Richmond for remembering her father. Since Battle’s death, his family has been trying to pick up the pieces. The past two years have been painful to celebrate holidays and birthdays without him.

The family has organized balloon releases and has honored him at all of their family gatherings. Loved ones believe that he will never be forgotten, and now neighbors can drive by ‘Johnny R. Battle Way’ for generations to come.

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