Jared Taylor's 30th birthday was yesterday, and he and his wife should have been in Jamaica frolicking in the surf and renewing a romance beginning to rust after nine years together.
Instead, Malika Taylor took flowers to her husband's grave, and their kids sang "Happy Birthday" to his headstone.
As the mournful birthday remembrance took place, homicide detectives were scrambling to capture the man accused of gunning Taylor down after the Lawncrest man intervened in a bar fight last month.
The suspected killer - Aaron Blue, 29, of Holmesburg - has been spotted in various locations throughout the city, and detectives are keen on nabbing him before his hair-trigger temper leads to more tragedy.
"He's got a violent past," said Detective Greg Santamala of the homicide unit. "He knows he's wanted. He's a danger."
Blue's last known address is an apartment building on Frankford Avenue near Stanwood Street, but he has been seen in Bartram Village, Frankford and other neighborhoods throughout the city, Santamala said.
He has about a dozen adult arrests for drug, gun, theft and related violations, according to court records. He's known as "Stump" because of his short, stocky build, Santamala added.
Detectives have issued an arrest warrant for murder and related gun charges for Blue, who they say fired his illegal gun into a crowd gathered around a fight outside the Empty Glass Bar on Adams Avenue near Howland Street.
Taylor had been at the bar to celebrate his cousin's 40th birthday with about 75 other relatives and friends when two women began arguing over a man, Santamala said.
When the bar closed shortly before 2 a.m. on Feb. 24, the fight resumed outside. Taylor tried to play peacemaker while some in the riled-up crowd instead began to join in the fray, Santamala and Taylor's relatives said.
But it was bullets and not verbal intercession that ended the row, and sent brawlers and spectators alike scattering for cover. When the chaos subsided, Taylor lay dying on the pavement, after two shots ripped into his shoulder and arm.
"There was a crowd of 30 out there - it's a miracle someone else didn't get hit," Santamala said.
Although dozens of people witnessed the drama, few have cooperated with the police investigation, Santamala said.
Detectives fingered Blue in the slaying only after Taylor's relatives picked him out as the gunman on video shot at the birthday party inside the bar, Santamala said. Blue knew one of the women involved in the original fracas, he added.
"People just will not help us out," Santamala said. "They march up and down the street, and they put the teddy bears and the candles out [as memorials], but that doesn't help us out. I understand they're afraid, but the only way this [murder and violence epidemic] is going to stop is for people to step up and help us."
Taylor's family has posted a $1,500 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of his killer. Tipsters, who can remain anonymous, can call the Citizens Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley at 215- 546-TIPS.
"If you want to take back these streets, let's get the criminals off them," said Santo Montecalvo, the crime commission's vice president. "You got the number. Call it." *