After the killing, a family dinner

CRIME BEAT

January 29, 2009|By PETER HERMANN

They ordered Chinese food to lure the deliveryman to a vacant lot on Webb Court in East Baltimore, stole his money and shot him four times.

Then, according to authorities, they really got callous.

Police say one of the robbers called his girlfriend, who lives three blocks away, told her to open the door and rushed over with the paper bag of food - so quickly that Baltimore Police Detective Martin Young wrote in court documents that the "Chinese food ... was still hot."

The man, his girlfriend and her children sat around a table and ate - all while the owner of China Garden, Tian Zin Wang, was fighting a losing battle for his life at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Detectives Young and Ray Hunter scoured the vacant lot in the dark for clues Jan. 3.

They found an unopened soda bottle, Wang's tennis shoes and 65 cents lying where the wounded man had collapsed. There were no bullet casings, but a crime lab technician recovered a crucial piece of evidence - the receipt for the order, complete with the delivery address and the number of the cell phone used to call it in.

Young discovered that the person who owned the cell phone called a woman moments after Wang had been shot. That later led detectives to the girlfriend's house, where they found the bag of Chinese food, which by then was empty and ripped but still had a China Garden flier stapled to the side.

Police have now charged Ronald Gamble, 18, and his cousin, Walter Taylor, 27, with first-degree murder, armed robbery and assault. Both are being held without bail awaiting trial.

Wang, 51, was killed late on a Saturday night. He moved from China to Maryland in 1981, joined relatives in Howard County and later opened the China Garden in the Oldtown Mall northeast of downtown. He took the 11:19 p.m. order so that his wife, three daughters and son could finish their dinners and close up.

According to police, both Wang's family and his killers ate his restaurant's food that same tragic night.

The violent death of an immigrant who came here to make a better life and who struggled to run a business in an outdoor mall largely abandoned by the city is bad enough. Reading the charging documents filed by police, it sounds worse: This doesn't look like a robbery gone bad, but more like a setup that went according to plan, capped off with a family meal.

Last year, 16-year-old Nicholas Browning shot to death his parents and two younger brothers one by one as they slept in their Baltimore County home and then walked three miles to a friend's house to play Xbox.

In 2006, Lataye King, also 16, fatally stabbed a girl to steal her cell phone and walked away from the body eating the victim's chicken sandwich.

Some people run from a killing. Others, I guess, try to hide by blending in, by falling back into routine, even if nothing is routine anymore. They play video games. They eat the victim's food.

Sometimes more than once.

Police say that one of the suspects had ordered from the victim's carryout several times before.

He apparently liked the food so much that police said after shooting Wang, he "even came back [to his girlfriend's house] the next day to finish off the rest of the Chinese."

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Talk with Peter Hermann at baltimoresun.com/crime

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