PHILADELPHIA – Investigators pleaded Tuesday for witnesses to come forward and searched for surveillance footage of the men who beat to death a young man they apparently thought was yelling at them — not at the taxi that wouldn't give him and his friends a lift in the city's historic district.
Police are seeking four men and offering a reward in the beating of recent college graduate Kevin Kless, 23, early Saturday after he shouted at the cab while he, his girlfriend and a female friend looked for a ride after leaving a bar, 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 men, who have not been found or identified, may have been acting on the mistaken belief that Kless was yelling at them, according to police.
Police are also seeking the driver of the car, believed to be a maroon sedan.
Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman, said officers were re-interviewing Kless' companions, whose identities were not disclosed, and are trying to find other pedestrians who may have been around at the time.
They are looking for any good surveillance video of the attack, which might have been caught by cameras at stores or other businesses nearby. The attack took place near the historic Second Bank of the United States, not far from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, in an area home to many bars and restaurants that are popular hangouts for young adults.
"We're just pleading with anybody," Little said. "Any leads at this point would be helpful."
The city and the Fraternal Order of Police announced a combined $15,000 in reward money 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 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 tried to stop the cab a few blocks from Lucy's Hat Shop, a bar that he and his friends had just left.
When the cab stopped, police said, Kless got 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.
Kless, a May 2010 graduate of 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 youngest of three brothers, he grew up in Warwick, N.Y., and spent his whole life there before going to college in Philadelphia, said his mother, Kendall Kless.
"Kev was returning to Philly with this job and thrilled to be back among his friends," said Kless, who described her son as a very social person with a huge circle of friends who have been offering condolences. "It's what is holding us up right now."
One of Kless' professors described him as a good student and a pleasant and easygoing person who was rising in his field.
"He was a good, solid ambassador for our program," said R.B. Drennan, associate professor and chairman of Temple's Department of Risk, Insurance and Health Care Management. "He was well on his way."
His mother said Kless, who had a knack for making people laugh, dreamt of making an impact on the world.
"If anything has come from this that I didn't realize was how loved his was," she said. "He made everybody laugh. He made everybody happy."
There are simply no answers to explain a killing that can only be described as senseless, Kless said.
"There is no sense in it," she said. "There is nothing that makes sense about this."