Man Surrenders to Face Charges in Deadly Punch in Argument Over Unleashed Dog at South Philadelphia Park

Drew Justice died after being punched during an argument at Gold Star Park along the 600 block of Wharton Street around 9:15 p.m. Saturday. On Thursday, Matthew Oropeza surrendered to face charges.

What to Know

  • Matthew Oropeza has surrendered to face charges in the deadly dog park fight that left Drew Justice dead.
  • Justice began arguing with another man after telling him to put his dog on a leash at Gold Star Park in South Philly, witnesses said.
  • Witnesses told NBC10 they don’t believe the attacker meant to kill Justice but that he still ran away after punching him.

A man surrendered Thursday to face charges related to the death of a man walking his dog in South Philadelphia, five days after an argument allegedly occurred because of an unleashed animal.

Matthew Oropeza turned himself, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said, and is expected to be charged with involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, reckless endangerment and terroristic threats in relation to the Saturday night incident at Gold Star Park in South Philadelphia.

Drew Justice, 38, and his fiancée were walking their dog at the park along Wharton Street around 9:15 p.m. Saturday when Justice began arguing with another man after telling him to put his dog on a leash, witnesses said.

"He was scared," Anthony Barosso of South Philadelphia said. "It was a pit bull opposed to two little puppies." 

The argument escalated and the other man punched Justice, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head on the ground. Police responded to the dog park after receiving a report of a person screaming.

"I heard the screaming," Justice's neighbor Julie Abruzzese told NBC10. "But it was already done. He was laying on the ground."

Justice was taken to Jefferson Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Witnesses said several people tried to resuscitate Justice though they believe he died instantly.

"Him and his fiancée were ready to get married," Abruzzese said. "It's heartbreaking."

No word yet if Oropeza has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

It is not yet known if Oropeza has an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

Residents told NBC10 there's been recent tension at the popular park due to a mix of dogs and children.

"They're going to tell you their dog's friendly," Abruzzese said. "You don't know at that moment if a dog's going to turn. I've always said that one day they're going to bite these children. But here it turned out somebody got killed over a leash."

Correction: The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office intially gave the wrong first name for the suspect. His name has been updated.

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