It happened quick, real quick, the way things like this usually do.
One minute, Larry Bennett, a tall, thin 68-year-old handyman, was joking with two friends in front of a porch in Nicetown this afternoon.
The next minute, one of the friends said, he was on the ground, crying out, “Why did you do this to me?” after a neighborhood punk calmly walked over and shot him in the chest.
Police said Bennett died at Temple University Hospital not long after he was gunned down on Rowan Street near Wayne Avenue shortly before 1 p.m.
Investigators tonight issued an arrest warrant for his alleged killer, 17-year-old Tyrone Roberson, said Homicide Capt. James Clark.
Roberson lives across the street from the spot where he allegedly gunned down Bennett. Clark said Roberson’s family was cooperating with detectives.
The teen, he added, has a criminal history.
Thus far, the search for a motive has led investigators to focus on a vague sequence of events that began yesterday when Bennett did some yard work for Roberson’s family.
“We think the shooter thinks that [Bennett] found something in the yard that belongs to him and took it,” Clark said.
The captain said Roberson and Bennett exchanged words moments before the shooting, when Roberson apparently tried to pat down the handyman.
Two women, one in her late 30s and the other a little bit older, said they were chatting with Bennett when Roberson approached. Neither wanted to have their names printed.
The women knew both men well. Bennett, they said, has long been known affectionately in Nicetown as, “Mr. Larry, who fixes everything,” while Roberson often goes by the street nickname “Sneaker Pete.”
The fatal encounter ended as quickly as it started, they said. “’Sneaker Pete’ walked up and had the gun in the sleeve of his hoody,” one of the women said. “I thought it was a toy.”
“Then he fired three shots, and Mr. Larry fell to the ground. All this blood came out of his mouth,” she added.
The other woman looked down at the pavement where Bennett collapsed hours earlier. “I hope they get him,” she said. “Mr. Larry was a good man.”