THIS TIME NEXT week, Jeff Zlupko was expecting to be on a beach in Jamaica, getting ready for his wedding day and hanging out with his best friend, Tom Watson.
Instead, Zlupko will be without his best bud and best man after Watson was gunned down Saturday morning during what police called an attempted robbery as Watson entered his home on South Street near 3rd. The 36-year-old was found lying on the floor with multiple gunshot wounds. Medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Watson, 36, was a popular disc jockey known as "DJ Fenicx," who did shows at local clubs in West Philadelphia and Tavern 222 on South Street, where he also worked as a cook, according to friends who gathered at the bar yesterday to mourn. They described Watson as a witty, caring person who also loved animals.
"I couldn't even tell you [of] a nicer person in the world," said Zlupko, who knew Watson for 15 years. "If you owed the bar $50 and he had $20 on him, he would borrow $30 to give to you."
Watson was a Philadelphia native who grew up in Olney and attended Cardinal Dougherty High School, friends said. He was an only child, and his father died a few years ago, leaving only his mother, who lives in Florida, Zlupko said.
"Right now I'm trying to get her up here, so it's a really bad Mother's Day," Zlupko said.
Brent Chavis, a neighbor of Watson's, described him as easy to get along with.
"He wasn't judgmental. He was one of the least judgmental people I've ever met, and that's one of the reason we became such close friends," Chavis said. "He just tried to get along with people."
Chavis added, "He was one of those guys everybody liked running into. He was known around the neighborhood. He was a decent man. . . . He didn't deserve to go out like that."
Rosalyn Bentley, a bartender at Tavern 222, said she worked with Watson for eight months. She fondly remembered many of his kind gestures.
"He was just always a nice guy," Bentley said, "walking you to a cab or double-checking that the doors were locked."
Watson's second-floor apartment was above the Haagen-Dazs ice-cream shop on South Street, and he had to enter the shop to get to his apartment. Zlupko said a friend dropped Watson off shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday. According to Zlupko, the friend came back around the block to check on Watson and saw Watson's DJ equipment still sitting outside the front door.
When the friend went to check on Watson, a man confronted him at the door and threatened him, Zlupko said. The friend briefly walked away, at which time the suspects fled toward Front Street, Zlupko said. The friend returned and found Watson lying behind the counter, according to Zlupko.
"My personal assumption is they thought that he was probably the owner or manager of Haagen-Dazs, and they [dragged] him behind the counter and asked him to open the safe and he said, 'I just live here,' " Zlupko said.
Police said they are searching for two suspects, described only as unknown black males in dark hooded sweatshirts.
Zlupko said a surveillance camera inside Haagen-Dazs caught crystal-clear images of the men, whose faces were uncovered. He said the recent spate of shootings in the neighborhood is disturbing.
"[Police] need to step it up. They really need to step it up. It's a goddamn disgrace," he said.
On top on their grief, Watson's friends were upset that his landlord reportedly discarded most of his belongings before they could get into the apartment. Zlupko said some friends were able to retrieve four of Watson's five cats, and were hoping to find the last one Sunday.
"He threw everything away," Zlupko lamented.
The landlord, Brian Calhoun, declined to comment.