The gun was so little, Shane Kelly’s girlfriend thought it was a toy. The shots were so quiet, John Loftus thought they sounded like pops from a cap gun.
But the gun and the bullets were real.
Loftus and Kelly’s girlfriend, Maryelise Doyne, testified as eyewitnesses last Wednesday at the preliminary hearing for two young men accused of shooting Kelly to death on Nov. 13 after a failed robbery on a Fishtown street corner.
At the end of the hearing, Municipal Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni ordered Ryan McManus, 20, of the 2600 block of Sepviva St., and Richard Smith, 19, of the 1600 block of Eyre St., to stand trial for murder.
As the alleged shooter, McManus is charged with a general count of murder, which includes a first-degree grading. Smith is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly participating in the robbery attempt that led to the killing.
McManus is also charged with aggravated assault, multiple counts of robbery and conspiracy. Smith is also charged with multiple robberies and conspiracy. Assistant District Attorney John Doyle is the prosecutor.
The crime occurred at about 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
Kelly, 27, of the 6300 block of Crafton St. in Mayfair, and Doyne, of Fishtown, had spent a few hours at Girard Avenue nightclubs and were walking northbound on Berks Street toward Thompson Street. Doyne was using her mobile phone to order a pizza and noticed two young men walking toward them.
The strangers passed the couple, then turned around and walked up behind them, Doyne told the court. She and Kelly turned and saw the two would-be robbers — one holding a gun and the other holding a white T-shirt over his face in an obvious attempt to conceal it.
The gunman demanded, “Give us everything [you] have. Empty [your] pockets,” while the other guy stood there silently, Doyne recalled.
The victims retreated a bit, but the robbers stepped toward them, according to Doyne. Arguing ensued. She warned them that police were on the way.
“I said to them, if you’re going to try and rob us, I’m going to call 911. I have the cops on the phone,” Doyne testified.
Kelly dared the younger and smaller bandits.
“He did say to them, ‘If you’re going to shoot me, shoot me,’” Doyne recalled.
Then Doyne saw a car stop at the corner. She rushed toward it and pleaded for help. A male passenger, Loftus,emerged from the car.
By that time, the tables had turned on the sidewalk. The suspects, neither particularly tall and both thin, fled on foot, turning east on Thompson. Kelly, who stood over 6 feet and weighed some 280 pounds, ran after them.
Doyne stayed at Berks and Thompson, speaking to a 911 operator. Loftus, a convicted prescription drug dealer and state prison parolee, joined Kelly in the chase.
“The kids turned the corner [onto Thompson Street] and the heavy-set guy is right behind them. That’s the first thing I saw,” Loftus told the court.
He was about 20 yards behind Kelly, who was gaining on the suspects. At the next corner, the suspects split up, Loftus said. McManus turned northbound on Hewson Street. Kelly and Loftus followed him.
“[McManus] had a gun. I thought it was a cap gun. He started firing shots,” said Loftus.
McManus had the weapon aimed “right at” the two pursuers, according to Loftus, who was unaware that Kelly had been hit.
“[Kelly] kept running. He didn’t say nothing. Then he just fell. I thought he was out of shape or something,” Loftus said.
At last week’s hearing, attorneys did not ask Loftus why he joined the foot chase or why he continued chasing McManus even after Kelly had collapsed. In his testimony, Loftus suggested he did not know any of the men personally — referring to them by physical description rather than by name.
Kelly collapsed in front of a house at 1340 Hewson St. He had gunshot wounds of the chest, abdomen and left thigh. Police took him to an area hospital, where he died shortly before 5 a.m. Police later recovered eight empty .25-caliber bullet casings from Hewson Street.
Immediately after the shots, the gunman continued to run and tried to manipulate the slide mechanism on the automatic-style weapon as if it had jammed, according to Loftus.
“The gun never left his hand,” Loftus testified.
Loftus told the court that he chased McManus around the neighborhood in a couple “big circles” before the suspect entered a house at 713 Belgrade St., a half-block from the shooting.
“It looked like he dove into the house,” Loftus told the court, adding that the police showed up within “split seconds.”
McManus’ cousin, Eric Bernatovich, emerged from the corner rowhouse and argued with Loftus, who directed police toward the house.
“Some guy came running out and called me a snitch,” Loftus testified. “As soon as the guy said it, I was like, ‘The hell with it. I’m out of here.’”
Bernatovich also testified at last week’s hearing, admitting, “I called him a snitch.”
At the time he was living at the Belgrade Street house with his mother, McManus’ aunt, Barbara Gill.
Mumbling through most of his testimony, Bernatovich complained that police initially thought he was the gunman and manhandled him into the back of a squad car. The police eventually released him.
Under questioning by Smith’s defense attorney, Scott DiClaudio, Bernatovich admitted that he had been in contact with both defendants in the aftermath of the shooting, that he knew both were on the run and that he had been asked to cover for them.
Bernatovich has not been charged criminally. He told the court that McManus arrived at his house, took off his jacket, then left the house.
Later, Smith called Bernatovich by telephone and asked him to bring a pair of sweatpants to a convenience store on nearby Susquehanna Avenue, Bernatovich told the court.
During the same conversation, Smith admitted that he and McManus had tried to rob “some girl,” but “some dude came after them,” and McManus ended up shooting the guy, Bernatovich told the court.
Nonetheless, Bernatovich testified, he went to meet Smith anyway and brought McManus’ jacket with him, although he had no intent of disposing of the potential evidence.
After the dust had settled, McManus also called Bernatovich and asked if he knew anything about the condition of the shooting victim, according to Bernatovich.
Bernatovich told McManus that police said that Kelly had been shot in the chest and leg.
McManus replied that he had “f—-ed up” by shooting Kelly and abruptly ended the call, according to Bernatovich.
Police arrested McManus at his home within hours of the shooting and arrested Smith two days later. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org