Store owner shot, killed in robbery

Police chase suspects through 2 counties, city

`The worst kind of nightmare'

Officer shoots one man after crash

other arrested


October 09, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes and Del Quentin Wilber | Gus G. Sentementes and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A robber shot and killed a Jessup deli owner yesterday, grabbed two bags filled with cash, and within minutes began leading police on a high-speed chase through two counties and the city that ended with a car crash, the arrest of one suspect and the shooting of another by a Baltimore County officer, police said.

The victim, Kwang Jun Kim, 53, owner of the Jessup Plaza Deli & Convenience and a Presbyterian church deacon, was shot once in the head about 11:30 a.m. as he was about to walk into his store carrying two bank bags. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he died.

In addition to selling sandwiches and sundries, the Jessup deli offered check-cashing services in the strip mall in the 7800 block of Washington Blvd. It had been robbed as recently as July 31, but Kim was not involved in that incident, Howard police said.

FOR THE RECORD - Articles in the Oct. 9 edition of The Sun and the Oct. 10 Howard County edition of The Sun about the armed robbery and killing of Jessup deli owner Kwang Jun Kim erroneously stated his daughter's educational status. She is a college student.

"This is a business that operates a check-cashing operation and oftentimes we see this" type of armed robbery, said Sherry Llewellyn, a Howard County police spokeswoman.

The pursuit of the two suspects, which led police across Howard and Baltimore counties and into Baltimore, began shortly after the shooting at the deli.

A witness gave Howard County police a license plate number and said the two suspects were driving a gold-colored Chevrolet Malibu, police said.

Several minutes later, a Howard County officer spotted the car heading east on U.S. 40, called for assistance, and tried to make a traffic stop. But the driver refused to stop and continued into Baltimore County, police said.

Baltimore County police joined the chase on U.S. 40 and followed the Chevrolet into Baltimore, where it turned off U.S. 40, which becomes Edmondson Avenue in the city, onto South Athol Avenue. The car then crashed into a stone sign at the entrance of a nursing home, police said.

A Baltimore County police car rammed into the Chevrolet from behind. One suspect got out from the passenger side and pointed a gun at Baltimore County Officer Joshua Rees, who was in another cruiser, city police said.

Rees, 23, a two-year veteran stationed at the Wilkens Precinct, fired several shots and wounded the suspect, who was identified by police as a 46-year-old man.

The man was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Police initially reported that the man had died, but yesterday evening a city police spokesman said the man was in critical condition.

Officers took the driver into custody and he was questioned by Howard County and city detectives. Police did not immediately release the name of either suspect.

The Baltimore County police officer who crashed into the suspects' vehicle was injured, said Officer Shawn Vinson, a county police spokesman. Officer Jessica Hummel, 26, was taken to St. Agnes HealthCare with injuries that were not life-threatening, he said.

He did not know whether she was admitted or released, nor did he know her condition. Hummel, who also is assigned to the Wilkens Precinct, has worked for the county Police Department for almost three years.

Witness' account

Witnesses to the shooting at the Jessup deli said they saw Kim's wife, Eun, who was working in the store, run outside, crouch before her bleeding husband on the sidewalk, and then run across the plaza's parking lot yelling after the car.

"I heard one pop," said Daniel Byrne, a technician at the Waterloo Shell gas station who was inside the garage at the time of the shooting. He poked his head outside, thinking it was a car backfiring, but saw something else.

"I saw the owner's wife running across the [gas station's] parking lot trying to chase the car down," Byrne said. Then he said he turned and saw Kim lying on the curb bleeding from his head.

`Very kind'

People who knew Kim said he was a hard-working immigrant from South Korea who rose each morning to open his store at 5:30 a.m., and was deeply involved in local church activities.

He lived in the 3000 block of Lancelot Cross in Ellicott City and had two children, a son who recently graduated from college and a daughter in high school.

The Rev. Youngho Lee, an associate pastor at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City, said Kim was one of a number of deacons at the church and was in charge of a team of parishioners who organized the Sunday luncheon after services.

"He was very active and very kind," Lee said in a telephone interview. "He never complained."

Lee said the family was planning to have a service last night at their Ellicott City home. A woman who spoke on the telephone from the house said she was related to Kim, and that the family wasn't prepared to comment on his killing last night.

Sung Kook Chun, an Ellicott City attorney who represented Kim in the past and knew him from church, said he was saddened to learn that Kim was killed outside his store.

"They're such pleasant and amicable people," Chun said. "This is a complete shock."

Tae Yee, a friend of Kim's son who grew up near the family in Ellicott City, said Kim was devoted to his church and family, and was someone who made others feel better.

"He was an all-around great guy," Yee said last night during a telephone interview. "He had a great laugh. He warmed up everybody around him when he laughed. ... He was a very kind and soft-spoken man."

This is the first killing of a Korean-American merchant in Central Maryland in at least four years, local Korean-American leaders said.

"We've been lucky," said Kwang Choi, a vice president with the Korean-American Grocers and Licensed Beverage Association, which has about 800 members.

Choi said he did not know the victim but that his death was "the worst kind of nightmare" for Korean-American merchants.

"We pray every day to avoid it, but sometimes people forget about the sudden incidents that are possible," Choi said.

Sun staff writers Lisa Goldberg, Jonathan D. Rockoff and Jason Song contributed to this article.

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