Dispute between dog walkers in South Philadelphia park ends with punch, fatal injury

Authorities say a dispute between two people who were walking dogs at a South Philadelphia park ended when one punched the other, causing a fatal injury.

Police say the 38-year-year old victim and his fiancee were walking a dog at Gold Star Park when they came across another man and his unleashed dog just before 9 p.m. Saturday.

Witnesses say the victim asked the man to not let the animal run free. The other man became angry and punched the victim in the face, causing the victim to fall backward and hit his head on the ground.

"Wow…the fact that someone lost their life is ridiculous," said Stefan Backhaus.

Backhaus says he and his dog, Cooper, have never encountered any problem on their routine walk. The dogs and the humans are fairly friendly as they cross paths non-stop in the Gold Star Park at Wharton and South Marshall Streets. It's one of the many tiny green spaces in the middle of typical South Philadelphia row homes. So, to hear a fellow walker was punched, fell, hit his head and died, as a result of simply informing another dog owner of the leash rule comes as quite a shock to Tiffany Carmona.

"That's horrible. I think all dogs should be on leashes, regardless," Carmona stated. "You don't know how they're going to react to other people, other animals."

"I think it's a reasonable request. I mean, this is not a fenced in park. You shouldn't really have your dogs off-leash here. It's not really safe with cars and everything. I always have my dog on a leash. I mean, the fact that…it just blows my mind," Backhaus added.

The victim was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police have yet to identify the deceased.

The man who threw the punch remained at large Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.