CAMDEN -- A Marine Reservist who was trying to break up a fight in a Camden parking lot was shot to death early Sunday.
Camden County Police investigators said Timothy Loper Jr., 27, of Pine Hill, died from a gunshot wound to his back that pierced his heart at Second and Spruce Streets at 2:46 a.m.
Police said Loper, who according to his father served four years in the Marines as a corporal, saw a fight in the parking lot of the 20 Horse Tavern and tried to intervene. As he was bending down, he was shot in the back, police said. Loper was not a participant in the fight.
"He was a great man," said Loper's father, Timothy Sr., 46, of Camden. The elder Loper said he was called early Sunday about his son and took a cab to the scene. By the time he arrived, his son's body had been removed, he said.
Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk and Police Chief Scott Thomson said a man was wanted for questioning in Loper's killing. Police described the man as having a beard and a muscular build and wearing a sweater.
"He'd been a soldier all his life, and for him to come home and die on these streets is tragic for our family," Loper Sr. said Monday night. "He has no ties to that type of lifestyle.
"The reason he was down there [Sunday] was that some of his childhood buddies from Blackwood were there," the father said. "He tried to break up an altercation and lost his life."
Loper grew up in Blackwood. After attending Highland High School, he worked as a supervisor at a McDonald's and later UPS, and then went into the Marines.
The elder Loper said his son had been stationed in Havelock, N.C., and Afghanistan, and was in his second year in the Reserve.
Loper Jr. had returned to South Jersey and landed a job as supervisor at Keystone Industries in Cherry Hill, a chemical company that manufactures fingernail polish and other items. Loper Sr. said his son was also attending Rowan University part-time at its Camden County campus.
"There are no words to describe the pain I am feeling," he said. "No one can tell me how I feel. All you can do is be numb."