Two men who participated in a fatal brawl last year outside Pat’s King of Steaks were held for trial Tuesday on charges including murder after gruesome videos of the fight were played at the men’s preliminary hearing.
Omar Arce, 33, and Jose Alberto Flores-Huerta, 34, both of South Philadelphia, were seen on a compilation of surveillance videos throwing punches and kicks as a fight between two groups of men at the iconic cheesesteak shop quickly spiraled out of control.
The men in the two groups did not know one another, one victim testified Tuesday, and it remained unclear what sparked the brutal assault, which happened around 2 a.m. last September, after the participants had attended a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal in Chester between the Philadelphia Union and Club América, a team from Mexico City.
Still, the video showed that within seconds, some of the assailants began wielding trash can lids, unleashing kicks to the head, or punching victims who were bleeding and struggling to stand up.
Assistant District Attorney Ed Jaramillo called the brawl “one of the most brutal beatdowns” imaginable, with Arce and Flores-Huerta’s group repeatedly punching and kicking 28-year-old Isidro Cortes and his 64-year-old father — even as they were motionless on the ground.
Cortes died from blunt force trauma to the head, his father suffered injuries including fractured ribs and a broken nose, and Cortes’ friend was hospitalized with a series of wounds to the face. The friend testified Tuesday, saying through a translator that he did not recall much of what happened outside of what was captured on video.
Lawyers for Arce and Flores-Huerta — James Funt and Jonathan McDonald — tried to persuade Municipal Court Judge Karen Y. Simmons that their clients should not have been charged in Cortes’ killing. Video shows Arce and Flores-Huerta beating Cortes’ friend, they acknowledged, but not throwing a punch or kick in the sustained beatdown of Cortes and his father.
Two other men with Arce and Flores-Huerta — identified by police as brothers Osvaldo Pedraza, of Kensington, and Victor Pedraza, of South Philadelphia — were responsible for that portion of the fight, the lawyers said. Neither of those men has been apprehended, though authorities have issued warrants for their arrest.
Funt said “the ferocity of this attack was entirely due to” the Pedrazas’ actions, not his client’s. And McDonald added that the notion Flores-Huerta intended to kill anyone “simply does not exist here.”
Without explaining her reasoning, Simmons disagreed. She ruled that each man be held for trial on all charges, including first-degree murder, making them ineligible for bail.
They are scheduled to be formally arraigned next month.
The courtroom was packed Tuesday with relatives and friends of the victims, as well as supporters of Arce and Flores-Huerta.
Speaking outside the courthouse afterward, Eduardo Rangel, a friend of Cortes’, said it was painful having to remember his gracious and thoughtful friend in such a setting.
“He was just a motivation,” Rangel said. “He was just the best person.”