Witnesses recount robbery attempt, death in Fishtown

Posted: February 08, 2012

The robbers were young and nervous and the victims didn't believe the gun was real.

A tragedy of errors that led to the November killing of popular pharmacy technician Shane Kelly was detailed Wednesday at a Philadelphia preliminary hearing that ended with Ryan McManus, 20, and pal Richard Smith, 19, held for trial on murder.

"I thought it was a fake gun," Maryelise Doyne, Kelly's girlfriend of 21/2 years, said of the small handgun held by the robber identified as McManus by another witness.

Doyne, 27, her eyes occasionally welling with tears, told Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni that she and Kelly, also 27, were walking home from a tavern about 12:25 a.m. on Nov. 13 when they were confronted by two young men at Thompson and Berks Streets in Fishtown.

"Give us everything, empty your pockets," the gunman ordered while his unarmed companion, whom Doyne identified as Smith - belatedly pulled his T-shirt over his nose as a makeshift mask.

Doyne testified that she was carrying her cellphone because she had just ordered a pizza.

"I'm calling 911," Doyne said she told the robbers - and she did.

Kelly, meanwhile, was arguing with the robbers and Doyne said she heard him yell, "If you're going to shoot me, shoot me."

At that moment, Doyne testified, a car stopped at the intersection and she jumped in front screaming that she and Kelly were being robbed.

Doyne said a man in the car's passenger seat jumped out, the robbers ran toward Hewson Street, and Kelly and his new backup chased them.

"I heard shots," Doyne said, "and ran toward them. All the neighbors were coming out and people yelled, 'He's been shot, he's been shot.' "

When she reached the scene at Hewson Street, Doyne said, Kelly was on the ground and a person was pressing a rolled-up coat against his stomach.

Doyne was not the only one fooled by the gun.

John Loftus, the samaritan from the car, testified that he also did not think it real: "It sounded like a cap gun."

By the time he caught up to Kelly, Loftus said, they were only chasing a single robber. Smith had by then split in a different direction.

Loftus said he was behind Kelly, chasing the gunman on Hewson Street, when he heard a series of shots. Kelly ran about 15 feet and fell.

"I thought he was just out of shape and winded," Loftus told the judge. "I said, 'Dude are you shot?' He never said anything."

Loftus said he tailed the man he identified as McManus for several blocks and saw him duck through the front door of a house in the 700 block of Belgrade Street.

Loftus said he stayed outside until police arrived and directed officers to the Belgrade Street house. He stayed there, Loftus added, until neighbors started gathering and a man "called me a snitch."

Eric Bernatovich, McManus' cousin, testified reluctantly about how McManus had rushed through the house and about hearing Loftus calling to police.

Bernatovich also testified that he met Smith the next day after Smith called asking him to bring warmer clothes.

Bernatovich said he knew McManus had bought a gun on the street several days earlier and added that Smith admitted that he and McManus tried to rob a woman.

When he told Smith the woman's boyfriend had been shot and killed, Bernatovich said Smith, exasperated, said "Ryan is [expletive] for shooting him.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.