The North Philadelphia bar where gunfights broke out early Sunday morning, wounding a police officer, is owned by a city firefighter who is now under investigation by his department.
"We're going to be taking a real close look at all of this," Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said yesterday, adding that his department would work alongside the police investigation. "We're reviewing all the facts, and we'll take appropriate action. . . . It's just not good to even be associated with anything like that."
Eugene Coulter Jr., a firefighter for three years, has owned the Franchise Sports Bar & Grill since 2005, according to city records. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Officer Ashley Hoggard and three other people were shot in a series of gun battles about 2:40 a.m. Sunday at the rear exit of the bar on Broad Street near Somerset. Police said surveillance footage taken inside the bar showed someone passing out guns to four or five men who then left the bar. The video also shows a man carrying a gun on the dance floor earlier that night.
No arrests had been made. Police said they were interviewing dozens of potential witnesses in the shootings, including one of the victims.
The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections closed the bar Monday, deeming it a public nuisance and a hazard. The department also found fire-code violations. Coulter had not appealed those findings as of yesterday.
According to city payroll records, Coulter draws a base salary of $46,708 as a firefighter. His record has been unblemished, Ayers said.
The bar has no open L&I violations. Its only past violation was for not having a public Dumpster license.
Sunday was not the first time violence flared near the bar, however. Neighbors said the area is plagued with fights and drug dealers. In 2007, two people were shot and killed outside the bar, and two others were injured.
Ayers said the department would conduct a review of all city firefighters who own bars. Ayers said he knew of at least two others and planned to compile a complete record.
Police said surveillance footage recorded outside the exit of the Franchise captured two men arguing, then one man falling as he was shot multiple times. The gunman was then seen passing the weapon to someone and leaving. Hoggard arrived soon afterward and was shot by an unknown assailant.
After Hoggard's shooting, someone in the bar handed out guns to four or five people, police said. Two other men were shot nearby about the same time. In all, police said, as many as 30 shots may have been fired.
Hoggard, 26, is in good condition and is expected to recover from a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Two victims are being treated for injuries that are not considered life-threatening, and another has been released from a hospital.