A U.S. Marine veteran who just returned to Philadelphia from a stint in the Middle East was gunned down overnight Thursday while trying to stop an attempted robbery, police said.
Howard Robert White, 47, was shot in the head and torso by a man who apparently attempted to hold up a bar at 5th and Spencer streets in Philadelphia's Olney neighborhood, police said.
It was just before 1 a.m. when the suspect, a yet to be identified 25-year-old man from North Philadelphia, pulled up to the Green Parrot Tavern along N. 5th Street.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said the man then opened fire on White and a friend who were standing on the sidewalk. Only White was hit. He died in the street, Small said.
"I heard six or seven times," Yu Choi, who lives near where the shooting took place, told NBC10. "Boom, boom, boom, boom."
The gunman fled following the shooting. White's friend and police, who were patrolling nearby and heard the shooting, gave chase to the 6100 block of N. 6th Street where the suspect broke through a back door of a home.
Javier Vasquez Sr. was sleeping in a bedroom with his wife inside the home when the suspect went inside.
"She screamed, 'Somebody is in the house!'" Vasquez Sr. said.
Vasquez Sr. chased the man and confronted him in the kitchen.
"I started struggling with him," Vasquez Sr. said. "Grabbed the gun. I grabbed his wrist. I grabbed his hair and I tried to hold him."
Vasquez Sr.'s son, 23-year-old Javier Vasquez Jr., wasn't far behind.
"I can't really see without my glasses," Vasquez Jr. said. "I'm pretty blind so I saw them struggling. I didn't know what was in his hand. I saw my dad struggling so the first thing I can do is get him off my dad."
Vasquez Jr. bodyslammed the suspect and pinned him down until police arrived.
Vasquez Sr. and the suspect suffered injuries to their heads and faces. Paramedics took both to Albert Einstein Medical Center for treatment.
Homicide detectives spent the morning questioning witnesses at police headquarters.
White lived about a block from the bar where he was killed. His family tells NBC10 he was injured while overseas when his military vehicle was hit, but he survived. They are in disbelief he came back to Philadelphia only to be gunned down so close to home.
Before his death, White talked about returning overseas. White's cousin Harold Holland called him a "father figure."
"He was a good dude. He ain't mess with nobody....peaceful man."
White's other cousin, Melinda Gordon, called him a hero.
"He died a hero," she said. "He served his country and he continued to serve up until the day that he went to heaven."