Bar Handed Out Guns Near Where Officer Was Shot
The Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix
June 16, 2009
PHILADELPHIA, PA – As many as 30 shots may have been fired in a series of gunfights that left Police Officer Ashley Hoggard and three civilians injured early Sunday morning in North Philadelphia, police said yesterday.
And after the officer was shot, someone inside the Franchise Sports Bar & Grille – a tavern at Broad and Somerset Streets that has had a violent past – began passing out guns, police said.
In a surveillance videotape, police said, someone inside the bar can be seen producing a trash bag and passing out guns to four or five men who then left the bar, police said.
Those men “are being armed,” Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn said yesterday. “It’s disturbing.”
The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections closed the bar yesterday afternoon, deeming it a public nuisance. A sign placed on the door accused it of “contributing to the allowance of violent life threatening behavior.”
In 2007, two cousins were shot and killed not long after exiting the bar. That incident also resulted in a man and a woman being wounded.
Yesterday, the bar also was cited for fire-code violations for having no sprinkler system or adequate fire alarm. The bar has no adjudicated violations with the state Liquor Control Board, and the owner can appeal the nuisance issue.
The bar owner, listed on records as Eugene Coulter Jr., could not be reached for comment yesterday. There was no response to a knock on the door of his residence in the Francisville neighborhood.
Officer Hoggard, 26, was shot in the shoulder shortly after responding to the bar about 2:30 a.m. Sunday. He was in good condition at Temple University Hospital yesterday afternoon, Blackburn said.
Two of the other shooting victims were at Temple in stable condition, and the third had been released.
Police yesterday were studying surveillance video footage taken inside and outside the bar.
Police declined to screen the footage for the media but said that it depicted a crowded dance floor, and that one man in the bar could be seen carrying a 9mm handgun. Another camera videotaped the same man arguing with 38-year-old Demetrius Dixon outside the bar, near a rear exit, and shooting him several times.
The gunman immediately passed that weapon to another man, who in turn passed it off again to a third person, police said.
Meanwhile, Hoggard and his partner were patrolling nearby as part of the city’s Operation Pressure Point, which is intended to crack down on street crime during the summer months. They heard gunshots as they drove toward the scene, police said.
After they arrived, surveillance cameras show, the man who shot Dixon crossed in front of Hoggard’s cruiser.
Hoggard has told investigators that he saw a man firing, and that he then was shot by an unknown assailant near 13th and Somerset Streets.
That’s when, police said, the guns were distributed inside the bar.
Police said yesterday that they were trying to reconstruct what had happened. At least three different guns were used, based on shell casings found at the scene. Only one of them has been recovered.
“It’s a very large scene. It’s very complicated,” Blackburn said. “We’re interviewing dozens and dozens of witnesses.”
One of the civilians wounded, Taquiddum, or Kevin, Curtis, 32, was shot in a leg near Park Avenue and Somerset Street after the officer was assaulted.
The third civilian shot, 31-year-old Frankie Whitmore, sustained an arm wound a short distance from the bar, police said. Investigators said they did not have an exact location.
Those men might have been in the bar before they were shot, and police have been interviewing Whitmore, who has been released from the hospital.
Police also believe a man and a woman got into an argument west of Somerset some time before Dixon was shot, though it was unclear whether that was related.
After the bar was closed yesterday afternoon, several women who apparently worked there came outside but refused to comment.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said she had been at home when the shooting erupted. She said she had heard about 20 shots, then ducked to the ground and called 911. She had to do the same last year when there was a shooting just outside her home.
“Of course I’m happy,” she said, when asked about the bar being shut down.
A 45-year-old Cherry Hill man who was visiting his business nearby said action should have been taken to clean up the neighborhood long ago.
“You don’t have to have a shooting to begin this,” he said of the bar’s closure. He said the area was plagued by drug dealers.
The man, who declined to be named, added: “If they paid me a million dollars to live here, I wouldn’t.”