PHILADELPHIA — A recent college graduate left a bar with his girlfriend just steps from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia's tourist district, yelled at a cab that wouldn't give him a ride and was savagely beaten by men who piled out of a car, perhaps in the mistaken belief he was yelling at them, investigators said.
Police are seeking four suspects and offering a reward in the beating of Kevin Kless, 23, early Saturday after he shouted at the cab while he and several friends looked for a ride, authorities said. Three men got out of a car behind the cab and started kicking and punching Kless, who fell to the sidewalk severely injured.
The three men and the driver of the car drove off. Kless was pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later. Investigators were still looking for the four men Tuesday and trying to get more information on the brutal attack, Officer Christine O'Brien, a police spokeswoman, said.
The city announced a $10,000 reward for arrests and convictions, and Mayor Michael Nutter took to Twitter to condemn the killing: "Encourage ANYONE who knows or saw anything about this incident to give us info, we need to catch these people, asap!" the mayor wrote.
The apparently random and brutal attack was the latest in a string of killings in the City of Brotherly Love, where there have been 20 homicides so far in 2012, up from 12 at the same point last year. Last week, a 30-year-old man with a long arrest record was charged with gunning down a carload of seven teenagers who had been feuding with his stepsons. Three of the boys died.
Investigators have little information in Kless' killing, which happened as he and several friends tried to stop the cab near Lucy's Hat Shop, a bar in the city's historic section. The area, home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, is also home to many bars and restaurants and is a popular hangout for young adults.
When the cab stopped, police said, Kless got involved in a conversation with the cab driver, who then drove off. The suspects, who were in a car behind the cab, apparently thought Kless was yelling at them, according to police. Three of them got out and began beating Kless near the historic Second Bank of the United States.
Kless, a May 2010 graduate of Philadelphia's Temple University who had studied risk management, had recently returned to the city to work at an insurance firm after spending time working in Harrisburg, the state capital.
"I think maybe he missed the city a little bit," said R.B. Drennan, associate professor and chairman of Temple's Department of Risk, Insurance and Health Care Management.
Kless was a good student and a pleasant and easygoing person who was rising in the field, Drennan said.
"He was a good, solid ambassador for our program," he said. "He was well on his way."