Theft at firefighter benefit caught on video

cutting open prize baskets Friday in the basement of the SmokeEaters Pub on Frankford Avenue during a raffle.
cutting open prize baskets Friday in the basement of the SmokeEaters Pub on Frankford Avenue during a raffle. (A man is seen)
Posted: April 15, 2012

Philadelphia police are searching for the thief who stole items donated to raise money for the families of two firefighters killed Monday when a five-alarm blaze engulfed a vacant building in Kensington.

The theft was caught on surveillance video Friday night as firefighters and others crowded the SmokeEaters Pub on Frankford Avenue after viewings for Lt. Robert Neary, 59, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25. The men were killed when a wall collapsed onto an adjacent building from which they were fighting the fire.

Manager Brian Gunn said the theft occurred during a fund-raising raffle at SmokeEaters, a hangout for off-duty firefighters and police. The thief cut open prize baskets containing items such as gift cards and hid them in his pockets.

"We wanted to make more money to give gifts to the families," Gunn said.

Area residents and businesses had donated the gift cards, food, and other goods to support the families, and SmokeEaters was trying to do its part, he said.

"We open the bar up to everybody when this kind of thing happens. Any money that comes in from gifts, tips, whatever - everything's donated to the families and to charities that help them."

Despite the theft, Gunn said, the effort raised thousands of dollars.

The surveillance video can be viewed at http://phillypolice.com/news. To submit a tip, call 215-686-8477.


Contact Jeff Gelles at 215-854-2776 or jgelles@phillynews.com.

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