A Northeast Baltimore liquor store owner shot and killed a would-be robber as the two struggled for a gun yesterday morning, the second time in two years the owner has killed a man who tried to hold him up.
The shooting coincides with increased police patrols along the Belair Road corridor to stem a string of six armed robberies at liquor stores that began Aug. 12, including one store that had been robbed five times in the past two months, police said.
As homicide detectives questioned 33-year-old Sung Kim, the owner of Bay City Liquors, operators of several nearby stores gathered at the scene to praise Kim's actions and complain about how dangerous operating a business in a high-crime area has become.
"I hold onto my gun every time I get out of the car and go into the store," said Jill Gordon, who owns Hobbit's Inc. liquor store on Bowleys Lane and was robbed two weeks ago by a man who put a gun to her head.
"You take your life into your hands every time you get behind the counter," said Gordon, 28, who walked to the shooting scene in the 4900 block of Frankford Ave. to see if the dead man was the person who had robbed her.
Several area merchants said they always make sure their gun is nearby.
Police had not identified the alleged robber yesterday, but police confirmed that they were investigating him as a possible suspect in some of the recent robberies. Undercover officers have been staking out several liquor stores hoping to catch the robbers in the act.
Kim could not be reached for comment yesterday. He was treated at an area hospital for two bites he suffered on his hand and arm during the struggle, and was then interviewed at police headquarters.
The state's attorney's office ruled the previous shooting in October 1995 justified as self-defense.
A large crowd gathered at yesterday's shooting scene at the small strip shopping center at Frankford and Sipple avenues, across from a line of neatly kept bungalow-style homes. One of the residents, Vindra Ramlal, said she heard the gunshot.
"It's like something that happens all the time," Ramlal said. "It's getting old now. At first I thought it was the wind, but then I walked out and saw the body lying on the ground. I'm ready to move now."
Most neighbors remembered a similar scene two years ago when Kim fired at a would-be robber. Police said three men walked into Kim's store about 9 p.m. Oct. 16, 1995. While two remained near the front door, a third pulled a handgun, jumped a railing, announced a holdup and fired three shots into a wall.
Police said Kim took his .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol from behind the counter and fired several rounds at the gunman, hitting him once in the chest. The man collapsed and died on the front lawn of a house across the street.
Yesterday's attempted holdup occurred about 11: 30 a.m. Police said a man walked into the store, demanded money and showed the waistband of his pants, where it appeared the man was holding a handgun. Police said it was a plastic tube taped at the top to make it look like the butt of a handgun.
Officer Angelique Cook-Hayes, a police spokeswoman, said Kim took out his .38-caliber handgun and the two men struggled for the weapon. She said Kim was bitten twice during the fight before he fired a single shot, hitting the man in the left shoulder.
Homicide detectives were trying to determine the exact circumstances of the shooting yesterday. "It is still kind of unclear at what point the gunshot was fired," Cook-Hayes said.
Police will give the results of their investigation to the state's attorney's office, and prosecutors can decide whether to pursue the case, file charges or take the case to a grand jury.
The wounded man ran from the store, collapsed and died in a parking lot near Sipple Avenue. A liquor store distributor who was inside the store at the time was uninjured.
Police said Kim's store had not been under police surveillance because it had not been robbed in the recent spate of holdups. Frankford Gardens Liquors in the 5400 block of Sinclair Lane has been robbed five times by a gunman, police said. Hobbit's Inc. liquor store in the 4500 block of Bowleys Lane was robbed two weeks ago by two armed men.
Gloria Ellis, a clerk at One Stop Shop, a half-block from Kim's store, said the store has not been robbed recently, but she said she is constantly scared. She, like other area residents, was pleased that Kim was not seriously hurt.
"You rob someone, you pay the price," she said. "I have a 13-year-old daughter and I want to live."
Pub Date: 9/30/97