GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - "Where's my Daddy? Where's my Daddy?" 3-year-old Isaiah Tobias asked his mother Friday as he climbed on the couch inside their unit at Colonial Courts.
"Your Daddy is an angel in heaven now," 34-year-old Danielle Tobias told her son as he stared up at her.
Isaiah's father, Metrevell Gatling, was supposed to pick up his son for a visit Thursday morning, but that never happened. Gatling was shot just after 11 p.m. Wednesday and was found lying on the street at East Collins Avenue and Colonial Court with a gunshot wound to his head.
Danielle Tobias said she was still in shock and that she tried to tell her son his father was dead, but he didn't quite understand. Late Friday afternoon when she returned home from her job at ShopRite in Galloway, Isaiah was still trying to process what his mother was explaining.
"Oh," the 3-year-old said quietly as he curled around his mother's legs.
"I talked to him Wednesday morning and he said he would be there Thursday morning to pick up Isaiah after he got back from work," Danielle Tobias said of Gatling. "He loved spending time with his son."
She said Gatling was waiting at the bus stop on East Collins Avenue to go to work when he was shot.
Gatling worked in housekeeping at Resorts Casino Hotel, and when he wasn't at work, he was at home, she said. She called Gatling a loner. The couple had been together for four years until their relationship ended a year and a half ago. Gatling lived in the same complex, but closer to East Collins Avenue.
After he was found Wednesday evening he was taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center City Campus in Atlantic City. On Thursday morning, Gatling was declared to have no brain activity and placed on life support. Life support was terminated Thursday afternoon, the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office said.
"I'm still in shock. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out who would have done this, what happened to lead him to be killed this way," Danielle Tobias said.
She said Gatling's body will be transported to North Carolina where his family lives for a funeral.
Gatling's death marks the sixth killing in Atlantic County this year and the second in Galloway Township. At this time last year, there were 14 homicides in the county.
In Galloway Township, Wally Delos Santos, 51, was gunned down in his driveway early on the morning of April 4 at his home on the quiet cul-de-sac of Falling Leaf Court. No arrests have been made in connection with Santos' death. He owned Wally's Barber Shop on Ventnor Avenue.
As of Friday no arrests had been made in Gatling's death.
On Friday afternoon, township Councilman Jim McElwee said he is concerned about having two homicides in the township so far for the year.
"I believe we are dealing with the spillage of crime, violence, drugs and prostitution into Galloway from Atlantic City. Just look at what the police are dealing with on a regular basis on the White Horse Pike," McElwee said.
He said he is not criticizing the Police Department or the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office and that Gatling's and Santos' deaths were crimes that authorities could not have anticipated happening in Galloway Township. Both deaths continue to be investigated, according to authorities.
"I know our Police Department is doing what they can with the limited resources they have," he said.
The township's department is down to 47 police officers from 74 in 2008, following several years of budget cuts, layoffs and retirements without rehiring.
On Friday, police Chief Pat Moran said he doesn't think McElwee's comments about the influx of crime into the township are off-base.
The township is not plagued by street level violence such as in more urban areas, Moran said.
"The more pressure there is in Atlantic City with more law enforcement agencies like the State Police and a task force, it means there are more officers there and criminal activity is going to be pushed into the suburbs," Moran said.
The suburbs are where there are fewer police officers right now, particularly in Galloway Township, Moran said. While local officers continue to patrol the township's more than 100 square miles, officials are looking into additional funding to hire more officers.
"I don't know what caused these homicides, but there is not a common, constant pattern of crime and violence in Galloway Township that led to these homicides," he said.
Anyone with information regarding the death of Gatling or Santos is asked to call the Prosecutor's Office Major Crimes Unit at 609-909-7666.
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