Cops: Beer spill led to fight on ballpark lot

Victim: David Sale Jr.
Victim: David Sale Jr.
Posted: July 28, 2009

The fight that resulted in the beating death of David Sale Jr. Saturday night was sparked by spilled beer, police said yesterday.

Sale, 22, of Lansdale, was jumped about 7 p.m. by three men in the parking lot outside McFadden's restaurant at Citizens Bank Park after an afternoon Phillies game.

Before being attacked in the parking lot, Sale and seven friends who were together for a bachelor party were ejected from the restaurant along with a larger group of 20 to 30 men with ties to a Fishtown bar.

McFadden's security put the two groups out after they began fighting after Sale bumped into someone and caused a drink to spill, said Homicide Capt. James Clark.

"Apparently it was very crowded in there, and from that it escalated to a war of words and a physical confrontation," Clark said. "They were all ejected, and then you had the beating and subsequent killing outside of the bar."

One of the three suspects got Sale in a headlock and the others beat and stomped him until he was motionless, Clark said.

Arrested at the scene and charged with murder and related offenses yesterday were James Groves (aka Jim Grove), 45, of Almond Street near Norris, and Charles Bowers, 35, of Bustleton Avenue near Devereaux.

Francis Kirchner, 28, of Palmer Street near Thompson, turned himself in yesterday and was also expected to be charged with murder., police said.

According to court records, Kirchner was convicted on charges of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person in 2007, and was sentenced to four years' probation.

Bowers was sentenced to probation in 1994 after being found guilty of carrying firearms in public, records show. A year later, he was sentenced to six to 23 months in prison for possessing an instrument of crime and simple assault, records show.

The three suspects were part of a group that traveled to the sports complex on a bus from Moe's Tavern in Fishtown.

The bar, a brick-front property next to a playground on Palmer Street near Moyer, was closed last night.

Several residents stood nearby, lamenting how a summer afternoon at a ballgame ended in tragedy.

The neighbors, who declined to be identified, said Groves, Bowers and Kirchner were lifelong Fishtown guys, each with jobs and children.

"I'm sick about this, sick that people I know are involved in this. They're not bad guys," one resident said.

"Their families are hurting. At the same time, our hearts go out to the family of the young man who was killed. They have to bury their son."

Sale's relatives could not be reached for comment on Sunday. Yesterday, police officials said the family did not want to be contacted by reporters.

Mayor Nutter decried Sale's slaying.

"This is, as far as I'm concerned, crazy, stupid, ignorant behavior that is in no way, shape or form representative of Philadelphians or the people of the region," Nutter said.

Michael R. Stiles, the Phillies' senior vice president for administration and operations, said: "We trust in the justice system and have confidence that the persons responsible for this tragic loss of life will be held accountable."

A spokesman for McFadden's referred questions to the police and the team.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said his department has proposed that City Council pass legislation requiring bars to call the police when disturbances erupt.

Too often now, he said, bars eject fighters who continue their beefs on the street.

"If the police had been called early on, you wouldn't have the escalation."

Tony Radwanski, communications director for City Council, however, said no such legislation has been forwarded to Council or discussed with Council President Anna Verna.

Clark, of the Homicide Division, said surveillance cameras captured some of the violence inside and outside of McFadden's restaurant, but police are still reviewing the video to determine if the actual killing was recorded. *

Staff writers Regina Medina and Chris Brennan contributed to this report.

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