On April 16th, 41 year old Eric Pope, a customer of Tabu Nightclub, was escorted out of the building for intoxication. Camera footage of the subsequent incident shows Tabu bouncer Kenneth Frye walking over to Pope as he danced in the street and punching him, knocking him to the ground unconscious. Pope was taken to Jefferson Hospital and eventually placed on life support. He died days later as a result of his injuries.
District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office issued an arrest warrant for Frye on charges of Third Degree Murder, a charge used for cases where the murder is non-premeditated, but intended to cause bodily harm.
“Violence is unacceptable,” Krasner said. “It is stunning to think of someone whose job it is to try and prevent unsafe situations causing severe injuries or in this case even causing death.”
Mayor Jim Kenney echoed Krasner’s sentiment. “It’s their job to get them out of the premises. Once they’re on the sidewalk or on the street, that should end their interaction.”
A vigil in celebration of Pope’s life was held on Wednesday, April 28th at Khan Park on 11th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. Candles were distributed and friends shared stories, thoughts and memories.
“Eric was full of compassion. He always went the extra mile to support those around him,” said friend and coworker Natasha Mcglynn.
Other friends reflected on Pope’s thoughtfulness, loving nature, and his commitment to inclusivity.
Throughout the community, people are seeking change and accountability.
Frye was employed through Mainline Private Security, an agency contracted by many Gayborhood bars – Tabu, Ubar, Tavern On Camac, Voyeur, and Woody’s. A spokesperson for Krasner’s office says that they’ve been made aware of recent reports of aggressive or violent incidents involving Mainline security staff at other Gayborhood bars.
Private security companies are not compelled by the city or state to offer any form of training.Tabu Nightclub has only issued a statement denoting that the incident did not take place on their property (as it occurred in the street), and that the bouncer is a contractor and did not work at the nightclub.
Many community members are not satisfied with Tabu’s response. A group of LGBTQIA activists and allies stood outside of Tabu on Tuesday seeking accountability and transparency.
“The owner cannot throw rocks and hide his hands” said Asa Khalif, a longtime community activist. “He has a responsibility to own up to his part.”
The LGBTQIA community has long relied on gay bars as safe spaces where they can go without fear of harassment or violence. This incident has some community members concerned for their safety.
“Our LGBT family is under attack more than ever right now. Everyone deserves to feel safe. It’s a basic human right,” said Leo Adorno, who attended the vigil.
The District Attorney’s office encouraged anyone who encounters an incident or knows of a previous incident, to share this information by calling the Philadelphia Hate Crimes Hotline at 215-686-8913.