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Police: Tow-truck driver kills man during shootout over vehicle repossession

Police said the victim was trying to stop a tow-truck driver from taking repossession of a car in Point Breeze. In the exchange of bullets, a dog was shot and another suffered a foot injury.

Scene in Point Breeze where a tow-truck driver fatally wounded a man during a shootout over a vehicle repossession on Friday, June 9, 2017.
Scene in Point Breeze where a tow-truck driver fatally wounded a man during a shootout over a vehicle repossession on Friday, June 9, 2017.Read moreJulie Shaw / Staff

Johnny Fischer was walking his two dogs in their Point Breeze neighborhood Friday morning when a shootout erupted between a tow-truck driver and another man, killing the second man.

"I was across the street, dove out of the way, tried to hide behind a stoop," he said. His two dogs were injured, one from ricocheting bullets.

Police said the tow-truck driver was trying to repossess a silver Toyota Sienna minivan in the parking lot of the Santana Food Market at 18th and Dickinson Streets when the altercation broke out with a friend of the van's owner.  The tow-truck driver fatally shot the 32-year-old man about 10:20 a.m., police said.

The driver said he shot the man in self-defense, police said. As of late Friday afternoon, charges had not been filed.

The man had been called to the scene by the woman who owned the van, police said. His name was not immediately released and police did not say what their relationship was, though some people in the neighborhood said they heard the man was her boyfriend.

Before the man arrived, Fischer, 29, was walking his dogs on the west side of 18th. He said he saw an "altercation going on" between the driver and the woman. The man arrived shortly afterward in what appeared to be a car service.

"He jumped out and rushed over to the tow-truck driver, had words with him, then sucker-punched him," Fischer said. The other man and the tow-truck driver then "went back and forth with the shooting," said Fischer, who was trying to hide behind a house's front steps with his dogs, Ace and Callie.

Police said the men shot at each other. The 32-year-old man, shot in an arm and the chest, was rushed to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:51 a.m. The tow-truck driver was not hit and has been cooperating, police said.

Guns were recovered from both men. Detectives were questioning the tow-truck driver and the van owner.

Outside the market, about 20 shell casings were scattered on the street and sidewalk shortly after the shooting. The Toyota remained hooked up to the back of the tow truck, a copper-colored Ram 3500.

Fischer said after the shooting, "I just sprinted home." His dogs, he said, were "spooked." When he saw blood at his house, he rushed both of them to Penn Vet in West Philadelphia.

Ace, a black male St. Bernard-poodle mix, was injured in his two right legs, and "lost a lot of blood," Fischer said.

Callie, a female golden retriever-poodle mix, suffered a paw injury, he said.

A Penn Vet spokeswoman said Ace was hit by ricocheting bullets and other debris and had fractured bones in one paw. Callie was injured in one paw, likely from stumbling while trying to get away, the spokeswoman and Fischer said. Both dogs were in stable condition and are expected to be OK.

Gaby Heit, who has lived in Point Breeze for the last year and a half, said she was at home Friday on a "peaceful, quiet morning," checking email, when she "heard a lot of boom, boom, boom."

"It sounded like fireworks," she said.

Two women who work at the market said they didn't see anything, and a surveillance video camera outside the store was not working.