Not long after he was mugged and severely beaten near his home close by Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Aaron S. Levenson decided to move his family to Baltimore County and seek respite, his friends recalled, from the violence of the city.
But Mr. Levenson, 30 years old and the father of two small daughters, continued to work at his family's furniture company in the 500 block of South Monroe Street in Baltimore where one day, it was assumed, he would take over the business from his father.
Yesterday, the violence Aaron Levenson sought to avoid found him on the parking lot across the street from the furniture store. At about 8:30 a.m., two men who police say may have been lying in wait for Mr. Levenson jumped him when he got out of his 1984 sports car. They shot him twice in the back and then, according to one witness, stood over him and fired once more into his chest.
He died on the pavement, police said, and his assailants fled without opening two zippered vinyl bags of store receipts, which contained no cash, and apparently without taking anything from their victim's body or from a satchel he had carried. In fleeing, the gunmen jumped onto the hoods of several cars in a used car lot next door, leaving clearly defined footprints from their sneakers.
Workers at the 90-employee Royal Furniture Co. Inc., many of them residents of the neighborhood who enjoyed working there because of the family atmosphere engendered by the Levensons, were stricken with grief at news of the killing.
Abraham Nachtomi, 56, a Royal Furniture employee who said he had known Aaron Levenson since the victim was a boy of 13, heard the gunshots and was one of the first to reach Mr. Levenson's side.
"I lay down on the street beside him," Mr. Nachtomi said. "I screamed into his ear, 'Aaron, wake up, talk to me.' I got no response. I'm not ashamed to tell you I started crying."
Moments later, Mr. Levenson's father, Joseph Levenson, who had been summoned by other employees from a warehouse on nearby Fulton Avenue, arrived at the parking lot but collapsed at the sight of his mortally wounded son. Police and paramedics feared that the elder Mr. Levinson had suffered a heart attack and took him to University Hospital. He was later released.
The firm that the elder Mr. Levenson headed and hoped to hand over to his son began operations just before the turn of the century and was located at Lombard and Eutaw Streets until about 20 years ago, when it was moved to the present location.
The neighborhood is considered a rough one, with more than its share of street crime and drugs. In fact, one witness, Chris Ziegler, assistant manager at the Firestone tire store at the corner of Monroe Street and Wilkens Avenue, said that when he heard the shots yesterday, he initially thought "it was just another drug shooting."
Police said last night that they have no suspects in the crime. Because nothing was taken from Mr. Levenson's body, some investigators speculated that robbery may not have been a motive.
Some store employees said they believe the slaying could be connected to a former employee who may have carried a grudge against Mr. Levenson.
If true, ill feelings toward Mr. Levenson were apparently not shared by other employees of Royal Furniture or by the men and women who ran businesses in the neighborhood.
Homer Goren, sales manager at the company, said employees were "totally aghast" at the killing. "There are just no words to describe how horrible it is," he said.
"I worked arm in arm with Aaron," said another employee of the company, Linda Yangsomcheep, 35. 'He was a well-rounded family man. He was also available for us. He didn't hide in an office. He worked and ate with us."
It was Mr. Nachtomi who said that Mr. Levenson had moved his family to Baltimore County recently because of the severe beating he had gotten during a street mugging near his home in South Baltimore.
"He had a fear of living there after that," Mr. Nachtomi said.
Mr. Levenson was married and had two daughters -- one 3 years of age and the other 3 months, according to employees of the company.
"He was just beginning to build a life for himself," Mr. Nachtomi said.