WHILE Timothy Loper Jr. was serving in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010, Darrell Crone was sitting in jail on weapons charges.

Crone, 31, was paroled in March, and early Sunday morning, authorities said, he used another weapon to shoot and kill Loper, a married father, outside a bar in Camden. Loper, according to police, was trying to break up a fight involving one of Crone's friends when he was shot outside the 20 Horse Tavern near the Camden waterfront.

Crone was charged with murder and turned himself in to police yesterday morning, though his attorney, Scott Cohen, said the Camden native claims he is innocent.

"I met him in person for the first time today. He looked me in the eye and said, 'I'm not a killer,' " Cohen said.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office charged Crone with murder and he is being held in the Camden County Jail. Crone is familiar with the jail, having filed a lawsuit against administrators there claiming unsanitary conditions.

According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Crone was incarcerated under the name Darrell Grier from September 1998 to June 2007 on robbery charges. He spent nearly three years in jail after that for the weapons charge.

Crone, listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds on the NJDOC website, used to box and was trying to join the professional ranks. Cohen said Crone is also expecting a child. His family could not be reached for comment.

Loper was employed at a dental lab in Cherry Hill and spent four years in the Marine Corps. His death was the 51st homicide in Camden this year and the second outside the 20 Horse Tavern.

City spokesman Robert Corrales said yesterday that the bar "has been temporarily closed, on an emergent basis, to protect public safety pending the final disposition of this matter."