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Bar video shows guns being handed out, police say

Police say a video from inside a bar shows guns being handed out before the shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Ashley Hoggard. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)
Police say a video from inside a bar shows guns being handed out before the shooting of Philadelphia Police Officer Ashley Hoggard. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)Read more

Just before Officer Ashley Hoggard was shot in the left shoulder outside the Franchise Sports Bar, a customer inside handed out four or five firearms from a trash bag to others leaving at last call early Sunday, according to surveillance tapes reviewed by police.

In quick succession, Hoggard and three other men were wounded, said police, who found at least 30 shell casings or projectiles at four locations, all within a short distance from the North Philly bar, on Broad and Somerset streets.

"It's a very, very disturbing video," said Deputy Police Commissioner William C. Blackburn.

Yesterday, the bar was shut by the city Nuisance Bar Task Force as a "public nuisance leading to violence on the block,"said Dominic Verdi, the Department of Licenses and Inspections' liaison with city and state police.

A cease-and-desist notice was posted outside the bar, which also cited "serious" fire and electrical code violations, Verdi added.

Blackburn said that homicide detectives were reviewing, frame by frame, four surveillance tapes of views inside and outside the bar, turned over by the bar manager .

"We want to identify individuals and a timeline . . . in a very, very complicated investigation," he said. Dozens of witnesses have been interviewed.

Blackburn said that .40-caliber and 9 mm shell casings had come from at least three firearms. A 9 mm gun was found on top of a wall in the rear of 1331 Somerset St.

Investigators, however, have not identified the bullet that hit Hoggard, who was listed in good condition last night at Temple University Hospital.

Also at Temple, two other victims, Demetrius Dixon, 38, and Kevin Curtis, 32, also known as Taquiddun, remained in good condition, and a third, Frank Whitmore, 31, who was shot in the right arm, was released, said Blackburn.

Shortly before the bar was closed at 4:45 p.m. yesterday, a woman who identified herself as Maribelle, the bar manager, said that she was working early Sunday and, "When I looked out the door, the officer was down. I called 9-1-1, and said '369-assist, officer down!' "

She said she knew how to report it because "I was married to a police officer for 13 years."

On state records, Maribelle Melendez is identified as the manager of the bar's liquor license. Eugene Coulter is listed as president of Gen-Wal, Inc., owner of the bar, state records show.

"I ran down to the basement where the videotapes were to see what was going on outside," Melendez said.

Asked if she had seen guns distributed inside the bar, she said that she had not, nor had violence occurred inside the bar.

Three armed security guards and a bouncer patted down partygoers before entering for a customer's birthday party, she said.

Melendez could not be reached after the bar was closed.

Blackburn said that the video showed that the bar's dance floor was crowded and that several individuals had firearms. Investigators were looking at whether an argument between a man and woman led to any shootings.

Neighbors said that they learned that a man had punched a woman in the face, prompting others to arm themselves, and that her male assailant was not shot but his unidentified friend was.

Video showed that the first victim, Dixon, passed a male just outside the bar. The two exchanged words. Dixon turned around and was shot six times, and 9 mm shell casings were later found there by police, Blackburn said.

The video showed that the gunman who shot Dixon walked west on Broad Street in front of the police car carrying Hoggard and his partner, said Blackburn.

It also showed the shooter handing off the gun to a second person, who then handed off the gun to a third person, he added. Before the shootings, those two men who accepted the gun were identified on the dance floor.

Blackburn said that the officer walked east on the north side of Somerset near Broad, across the street from the bar.

"In the next frame, he walks between two parked cars, doubles over and collapses," he added.

The time was 2:37 a.m., a minute after Dixon was shot, he said, adding: "We don't know whether the Dixon shooting is related to the police officer's shooting."

The third shooting involved Curtis, who was shot in the leg on Somerset Street and Park Avenue - the other end of the block from the bar - where investigators recovered different 9 mm shell casings, he added.

Blackburn could not identify the location where Whitmore was shot, but .40-caliber shell casings were found on Park Avenue at Rush Street, around the corner from the bar. Whitmore was found at the hospital.

Residents say that they've complained about the bar for years. *