City shopkeeper robbed, shot in head Merchant's condition is serious

police seek young assailant

October 27, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Pyung Lee arrived at his corner store promptly at 8 yesterday morning in his aging blue van filled with bread, milk, soda and bacon, expecting a routine day behind the bulletproof glass that protected him from robbers.

But Baltimore police say a young man waited for Lee to unlock the door, followed the merchant inside Woodington Market and demanded money. After grabbing a fistful of cash from two cash registers, police said the gunman shot Lee once in the right side of the head. Lee, 37, was in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

"It wasn't that much money," said Lee's brother-in-law Ken Kang, who runs a convenience store in downtown Baltimore. "Why didn't the guy just take the money? Why did he shoot him?"

Lee emigrated from South Korea about 10 years ago to join his family in Baltimore. He has a wife and two children, ages 7 and 9.

Detectives and Lee's relatives said the robber might be a neighborhood youth who frequented the Edmondson Village market in Southwest Baltimore. Officers blanketed the streets yesterday, but had not made an arrest.

Yesterday's shooting occurred one month after a man and a teen-ager were acquitted of killing a Korean merchant during a 1997 holdup in West Baltimore, in which a grocer was shot after handing the robbers $400.

It was one of several crimes -- including three slayings -- last year involving Korean merchants that prompted widespread fear that they were being targeted. Korean leaders met with city police and the Community Relations Commission in July and complained about not having enough protection.

Lee's relatives said they do not believe the shooting was a racial attack. But Officer Namhuyn C. Kim, the police liaison to the Korean community, responded to the scene to help family members during the investigation.

Agent Angelique Cook-Hayes said the shooting occurred about 8: 05 a.m. at the market in the 800 block of N. Woodington Road. Lee was forced inside at gunpoint, robbed and then shot, she said. Family members said about $100 was taken.

A neighborhood resident, who heard the gunshot, called police. The wounded Lee managed to pick up a phone and call his sister-in-law, Hyon An. "He said, 'Somebody shot me. Please help.' "

Relatives said trouble rarely occurred at the store. "Everyone who lives around here is very kind and friendly," said James Yim, a brother-in-law of the victim.

Janice Daily, a customer, said Lee often extended credit to people who couldn't afford to buy food. "I don't know why anyone would do such a thing," she said. Then she paused and said: "I do know why. It's greed."

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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