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Center City bar bouncer to be charged with third-degree murder for allegedly punching and killing patron

Kenneth Frye will be charged for allegedly punching Eric Pope outside of Tabu in Center City, police said. Pope was knocked unconscious and died a week later.

The exterior of Tabu at 254 S. 12th St. in Center City on Tuesday. Police are investigating the death of a patron after being punched by a bouncer at this location.
The exterior of Tabu at 254 S. 12th St. in Center City on Tuesday. Police are investigating the death of a patron after being punched by a bouncer at this location.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia police on Wednesday said they had issued an arrest warrant for a bouncer at a Center City bar who allegedly punched a patron in the head who later died.

The bouncer, Kenneth Frye, will be charged with third-degree murder in the death of Eric Pope, who was knocked out while being escorted out of Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar on April 16, police said. After Pope was hit, police said, his head struck the ground and he was taken to Jefferson University Hospital in critical condition. Pope, 41, died Saturday.

» READ MORE: A man died after a Center City bar bouncer allegedly punched him. The security company has a history of complaints.

At a Wednesday afternoon briefing, Deputy Police Commissioner Ben Naish said an arrest warrant had been issued for Frye, 24, of Philadelphia. Police were still looking for him as of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“We expect he’ll turn himself in or we will locate him in the near future,” Naish said.

District Attorney Larry Krasner’s victim-witness coordinator as well as a member of his LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee have been in contact with Pope’s family and offering supportive services, Krasner spokesperson Jane Roh said in a statement.

“The DAO is additionally aware of reports of troubling interactions involving private security workers at Gayborhood establishments,” Roh said. “We encourage members of the public who wish to share information with authorities that could lead to additional criminal investigations to contact the Philadelphia Hate Crimes Hotline: 215-686-8913.”

Police had previously said that Frye escorted Pope out of the bar, at 254 S. 12th St., shortly before 1 a.m. on April 16 for being intoxicated. Once outside of the bar, Frye punched Pope in the head, knocking him unconscious and causing him to injure his head when he fell, police said.

Video obtained by Fox 29 shows that bouncers eventually dragged Pope to the sidewalk and left him unattended as bystanders gathered.

“I don’t think punching anybody anytime is acceptable, unless you’re doing something in self-defense,” Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday afternoon. “And I don’t know the details, we don’t see everything that’s happening before the poor man was knocked out. But again, this is a case that’s still being investigated.”

Frye couldn’t be reached for comment.

One of the owners of Tabu, Jeffrey Sotland, previously told The Inquirer that Frye was not an employee of the bar, and worked for an outside firm, Mainline Private Security.

At the time, Sotland did not identify Frye or provide additional details on the incident, but said that it was the first time Tabu had run into issues with the security company. The company supplies bouncers to a variety of popular nightlife venues across the city.

Court filings show that Mainline has been sued a dozen times since 2020, frequently over bouncers’ alleged use of force or failure to summon medics in response to injuries. At least one of those lawsuits involved another Center City bar that shares an owner with Tabu.

A friend of Pope described him as one of the most “genuine, friendly, kindhearted” people he’d ever met, who’d never get into a fight. Friends and family gathered for a candlelight vigil Wednesday for Pope in Philadelphia’s Kahn Park.