Charges upgraded in case of Cousler Park slaying

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A York City teen now faces murder charges in connection with the fatal shooting at Cousler Park's basketball court in 2021.

Elijah Penn, 19, took his first steps toward a potential jury trial Tuesday, when he was arraigned into the York County Court of Common Pleas.

Investigators allege he killed Justin Griffith when he opened fire during a confrontation at the Manchester Township public park on the night of July 5, 2021.

The basketball hoops on the courts at Cousler Park, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, have been removed in the wake of a shooting death of a man there in July. Bill Kalina photo

The 20-year-old Griffith and at least two other people, including a man named Donald Dent, were playing basketball as a group of masked guys, wearing warm clothes in 95-degree heat, walked up to his team and confronted them on the court, police said.

Penn then allegedly started firing multiple times, according to court records. Griffith was shot once in the back and killed. Dent was shot in the foot.

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Investigators collected 16 9mm shell casings from the scene, police said.

Elijah Penn

Penn, who was 17 years old at the time, fled the scene and went to a relative’s home in Hellam Township. Investigators alleged he later talked to multiple people about the shooting and took credit for it. A witness also allegedly identified him at the scene.

Police believe Griffith, of Spring Garden Township, wasn’t a target in the incident.

A York County grand jury investigated the evidence and recommended prosecutors charge Penn in the case.

Northern York County Police Chief Dave Lash speaks during a press conference Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, revealing an arrest in the murder of Justin Griffith. York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, left, and Justin's mother Chawna Griffith, left, also spoke at the press conference. Also on display was a picture of Justin.

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Initial counts of criminal homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment were filed in January. Penn’s case then advanced out of a district court a few weeks later.

The homicide charges were upgraded to first-degree murder and attempted murder ahead of Penn’s arraignment, according to court documents.

His next hearing is now scheduled for April 19. Penn remains in York County Prison without bail.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.