A parking argument sparked the fatal shooting outside Pat’s King of Steaks in July, witnesses say
Paul C. Burkert was held for trial on counts including murder after a preliminary hearing Monday, at which witnesses said an otherwise-routine dispute devolved into a fight and then a shooting.
The events that led to David Padro’s shooting death outside Pat’s King of Steaks in July began when he bumped his car door into a van parked outside the iconic South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop, witnesses testified in court Monday.
In the moments that followed, they said, an argument over that seemingly trivial act devolved into a brawl and ultimately a shooting, with Paul C. Burkert firing a shot into Padro’s chest after he broke free from Padro’s headlock.
The entire incident lasted just minutes, but cost Padro his life and left Burkert and his girlfriend charged with murder.
Following a preliminary hearing Monday, at which witnesses recounted the incident and video was shown depicting it, Burkert, 36, of Reading, was held for trial on all counts, including first-degree murder and illegally possessing a firearm.
Meanwhile, prosecutors agreed to pursue a lesser charge against his girlfriend, Jamie Frick, 36, of Newmanstown, who the video showed had participated in the brawl. She faces a third-degree murder charge and, after waiving her preliminary hearing, is now eligible for bail.
The crime — one of two unrelated homicides at Pat’s this year — attracted national attention because of the renowned steak shop, and in part because of preliminary reports that it had been motivated by an argument over the Eagles and Giants.
But the witnesses who testified Monday, including a friend of Padro’s and a bystander, said the parking dispute was the catalyst.
Burkert’s attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., tried to persuade Municipal Court Judge David Shuter to drop the murder charge and hold Burkert on voluntary manslaughter instead. Burkert’s use of his gun, Peruto argued, was prompted by Padro’s “bull rush” of his client.
Assistant District Attorney Ed Jaramillo disagreed, saying that Burkert “took a gun from his car and made this a different situation,” and that the murder charge against him was warranted.
The events began around 12:45 a.m. on July 22. Marissa Schilling, Padro’s friend, said Padro had been driving and pulled into a parking spot outside Pat’s when he bumped his door into a van in the adjacent spot. Schilling said she heard a woman in the van yell out the window: “He hit my car.”
Burkert, who was in the line to order food, then exchanged words with Padro, making clear he was with the woman in the van, Schilling said. At one point, Schilling said, Burkert left the line and went to his car to retrieve something. After Burkert got back in line, she said, she heard him tell Padro: “If you don’t get out of here, we’re going to have a problem.”
Video shows the two men arguing off-and-on for a few minutes. Eugenio Pizarro, who’d been in line in front of Burkert, testified that he tried to tell both men — particularly Padro, who he said was acting more aggressively — to calm down.
Padro eventually charged at Burkert, video shows, knocking him into a wall and sending containers of condiments flying. The two fought for about 30 seconds, video shows, with Padro placing Burkert in a headlock.
Burkert broke free after Frick intervened and hit Padro in the head, video shows. Burkert then pulled a gun from his waistband and fired a shot, striking Padro once in the chest.
Burkert and Frick got back in their van and drove off, video shows. Padro, meanwhile, stumbled forward on Ninth Street for a few steps before collapsing onto the ground.
Burkert turned himself in not long after the shooting, surrendering to police near Independence Mall. Frick was arrested several days later.
Burkert remains in jail without bail due to the first-degree murder charge.
Padro’s relatives said it was difficult to watch the video of his death. His mother, Enidza Martinez, said after the hearing: “We just want justice.”