A man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of another man during a confrontation while both were walking their dogs in a Philadelphia dog park.
Monday's plea by 25-year-old Matthew Oropeza was non-negotiated, meaning the judge will determine the sentence by a May 28 hearing. During Monday’s brief hearing, prosecutors dropped charges of terroristic threats, simple assault, and reckless endangerment. The plea was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Authorities said the defendant knocked 38-year-old Drew Justice down after the victim told him not to let his dog run unleashed in the dog park in January of last year. Justice fell backward, hit the ground and died shortly afterward, officials said.
"It is never acceptable to inflict violence, much less violence against a neighbor in a neighborly setting,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a news release. “May the loved ones of the deceased continue to find healing and support from loving neighbors, and may this defendant find rehabilitation and repair while serving his sentence."
Prosecutors said at a preliminary hearing that the defendant had a verbal dispute with another man at the same park days earlier.