Moments after dragging Mark Wallace, unconscious and badly beaten, to the curb off busy Knights Road, Philadelphia firefighter Gerard Shaffer had a warning for the people gathering at the scene that April evening.

"Nobody seen anything," he called out, loud enough that even some motorists inside cars heard him.

The bystanders did not listen.

On Wednesday, four of them told a Philadelphia judge how Shaffer, 47, and his son, Gerard Jr., 21, pummeled the drunken Wallace for walking in front of their SUV. Wallace, 54, of Northeast Philadelphia, died April 20 of massive brain injuries, almost two weeks after the beating.

At the Shaffers' preliminary hearing, Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon ordered father and son held for trial on third-degree murder and conspiracy charges.

Witnesses testified Wednesday that Wallace was crossing Knights at Fairdale Road about 7:30 p.m. April 8 when he passed in front of Shaffer's SUV, apparently stopped at a light. An argument ensued about who had the right of way.

Father and son got out of their SUV. Witnesses said the younger Shaffer grabbed Wallace in a headlock and threw him to the ground. He returned to the SUV, gesturing for his father to follow.

Shaffer Sr. dragged the unconscious Wallace by an arm and leg to the curb, dropped him face-down and left.

"What the hell are you doing?" witness Jean Janukowicz said she asked Shaffer Sr. as he dropped Wallace "like a sack of potatoes."

Janukowicz, on her cell phone with 911 at that moment, said Shaffer didn't respond.

No witness described the entire sequence of events. Each, however, gave a glimpse of the confrontation:

After walking in front of the SUV, Wallace angrily yelled, "I had the right of way."

Shaffer Sr. confronted Wallace, repeatedly pointing a finger in the latter's face.

Wallace backed away from Shaffer Sr., palms forward, saying, "Stop."

DeLeon rejected Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax's argument that a trial jury should decide the degree of murder. First-degree murder carries a penalty of death or life in prison without parole; third-degree murder, 20 to 40 years in prison.

DeLeon's ruling made both Shaffers eligible for bail, but it was uncertain if either could produce the 10 percent cash minimum. The judge raised Shaffer Sr.'s original bail from $25,000 to $100,000 but reduced his son's from $250,000 to $150,000.

Defense lawyers James Funt, who represents Shaffer Jr., and Jonathan Krinick said the Shaffers should only be tried for manslaughter because there was no evidence of malice in the fight.

But Sax argued that Wallace - with a blood-alcohol level of 0.264 percent, more than triple the legal definition of drunken driving - "never had a prayer" against the two.

Funt contended Wallace initiated the incident by being drunk and walking in front of several cars.

"He was walking across the street," DeLeon interrupted.

"But he was also drunk as a skunk," Funt replied.

"So what?" said DeLeon.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or