A rowdy fight inside a University City strip club turned fatal early yesterday after a young man shot a disc jockey and was killed by a University of Pennsylvania police officer when he turned his weapon on police.
The disc jockey remained in critical condition, the strip club has been shut, and police were deciding whether anyone involved with the fight should face criminal charges.
The incident marked the second time in seven months that campus police have fatally shot someone. In April, a carjacker tussled with a campus policeman over the officer's weapon and was killed. It is also the second time within weeks in which tensions by an unruly club crowd escalated into a fatal police confrontation in the neighborhood, where students live in high-rises, apartment complexes, and the university's International House.
Authorities said the early morning shoot-out, which did not involve Penn students or employees, started as a fight among numerous men shortly after midnight when the group walked into Club Wizzards at 38th and Chestnut Streets.
Homicide Lt. Mark Deegan said that the men appeared intoxicated when they arrived and that an argument erupted. It was unclear what prompted the argument, but Deegan said it did not appear that a dancer had been involved.
The club's disc jockey attempted to intervene, and the scrap continued as he fought one or more of the men for several minutes, Deegan said. Dozens of people were inside.
On busy nights, customers are patted for weapons. Yesterday, however, no one was checked, and detectives were trying to determine whether someone had the gun inside the bar or if someone left, retrieved the gun from a car, and returned to the club.
Lt. Frank Vanore, Philadelphia police spokesman, said that as the fight progressed, someone flagged down two campus police officers patrolling the area.
During the bar fight, the disc jockey, identified only as a 31-year-old male, was shot once in the chest and once in the right thigh, police said. He was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained in critical condition after surgery, police said.
Maureen Rush, formerly of the city's police department and currently vice president in charge of university public safety, said police responded quickly.
"Two Penn police officers entered Club Wizzards, and as they entered, they heard gunshots, and at the same time they saw a victim fall to the ground," Rush said.
The officers identified themselves as police and several times ordered the gunman to drop his weapon, Rush said. He refused and pointed the gun at police, she said. One of the officers fired twice.
The gunman, identified as Larry Sanders, 23, of the 500 block of North 54th Street, was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.
Two people who allegedly were in the club during the altercation tried to get into vehicles to leave but were apprehended, police said. Deegan said many people were taken in for questioning.
Last night, Wizzards was closed, a red-and-white closure order from the city's department of Licenses & Inspections pasted on the front door. It cited "public nuisance" from the Monday morning incident as well as unnamed electrical and fire-code violations.
Sara Barnes, who said she has been a bartender at the club for about a month, said she was surprised when she showed up for work last night. She said she hoped the club reopened soon.
"It doesn't make me scared to work there or anything," Barnes said. "This could happen anywhere." She said the club had been peaceful in her experience and University City was a good neighborhood. "I'd almost expect it more where I live," said the Southwest Philadelphia resident.
Kenny Foster, who lives near the club, said the shooting was shocking. "There've been fights before, but nothing to this level," he said. "Usually it's parking-lot fights, guys getting into it over one of the girls. You know, people get alcohol in their system and things happen."