Philadelphia, PA – The man who delivered a fatal punch to another man in a South Philadelphia dog park on Saturday has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor.
The incident occurred when Matthew Thomas Oropeza, 24, was walking his dog at about 9 p.m. on Jan. 5, according to The Inquirer.
Drew Justice, 38, was also walking his dog in the park with his fiancé, Kristi Buchholz, and witnesses told police that he asked Oropeza to put a leash on his Shih Tzu.
Police said Oropeza took offense at Justice’s request, and punched him in the face, The Inquirer reported.
Justice fell backward and banged his head on the ground.
He was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
The medical examiner’s office said his cause of death was blunt impact injury to the head, KYW reported.
On Thursday, Oropeza turned himself in to the police.
He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, reckless endangerment of another person, and terroristic threats, which are misdemeanors.
Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor which shares the same maximum punishment as stealing $200 - a maximum of 5 years in prison.
The only witness to the incident other than Justice’s fiancé was a woman who said the altercation occurred out of the blue.
“Everything happened quickly. There was no grand argument or dramatic scuffle. Just several lives crossing at what has proven to be an irrevocably tragic moment in time,” she told KYW.
Neighbors of the park said they couldn’t believe a man was killed over a dog leash.
“I just don’t understand why someone would be so filled with rage to hit someone over something so insignificant,” Matt Murray told KYW.
The Inquirer reported that when Oropeza moved to the South Philadelphia neighborhood last summer, he already had a criminal record that included violence.
Court records showed he was arrested for fighting in Brookhaven in 2013, and pleaded guilty.
Oropeza was arrested again for fighting in 2016 in Ridley Township.
On that occasion, the disorderly conduct charges and accompanying drug misdemeanors were dismissed after he completed a diversionary program, The Inquirer reported.