On Monday, Ellen Broniszewski stood and looked at a shut-down Jin House Chinese Restaurant & Deli.
Three nights earlier, Xiang Huang was shot to death during a robbery of his Tacony shop. The hard-working, 27-year-old businessman, a Chinese immigrant, left behind a wife and three young daughters.
“What a goddamn shame,” Broniszewski repeated several times.
Police said the robbery happened shortly before 7 p.m. Friday at the restaurant, located on the southwest corner of Tulip Street and Longshore Avenue.
Two black men wearing dark clothing and ski masks entered the store with guns, demanding money. Huang’s wife Jin told the robbers to take money from the cash register, then went to a back room with her 8-month-old daughter.
While taking her child to safety, she heard a gunshot. Huang, who was cooking when the criminals entered, was shot once in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The city has posted a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests and convictions of the murderers. Anyone with information can call 911, the police homicide unit at 215-686-3334 (3335), dial 215-686-TIPS or submit a tip anonymously at http://www.phillypolice.com/forms/submit-a-tip/
The shop, which also sold groceries, did not have surveillance cameras. However, there were cameras on the four-unit apartment building across the street, and police are hoping the images lead them to the killers. For now, at least, they are not releasing the video to the public.
Huang, his wife and daughters lived in an upstairs apartment.
Longtime residents recall that the property at 4832 Longshore Ave. was a dry cleaner at one time. At other times, it was closed to business. Before Huang opened for business, there were seven or eight other Chinese food stores in operation.
Neighbors recall at least two other robberies of the store since Huang opened last spring. In addition, he was robbed at least once while making a delivery.
Capt. Frank Bachmayer, commander of the 15th Police District, urged anyone being robbed with a gun in a store or on the street to give up their money.
“This is a sad situation,” he said. “You have a twenty-seven-year-old guy trying to raise a family and have a business, and he’s shot and killed.”
Bachmayer is confident there will be arrests.
“Believe me, we will get these two,” he said.
Neighbors held a vigil at the scene on Saturday night and left behind stuffed animals, candles, balloons and flowers. Someone also posted a sign that read, “To the m–—f–– a––- that did this, I hope you rot in hell. I put a spell on you!”
The store, which offered catering, is in a rather remote location, well east of the Torresdale Avenue business strip. Besides the small apartment building, the intersection features a nice wall mural and a building that is home to the Jack Costello Boxing Club.
Some neighbors said the store did not seem to be busy. They all agreed that the killing was an outrage.
“This is the fourth time they were robbed. I think it’s terrible. A young couple is trying to make a living. It’s a damn shame,” said a Tulip Street resident named Marie.
Among residents, there is a feeling that the area is in decline.
“The neighborhood has been going downhill for the last ten years,” said Bill Mingle, a resident of the 6800 block of Tulip St. who plans to move to Florida when his wife retires from work.
The Mingles ordered Chinese food from Huang’s store once a month.
“The gentleman who got shot, he was the cook and the delivery person. He was a nice guy. The whole family was nice. And the food was always good,” he said.
Sean Laub, of Longshore Avenue, was a regular customer.
“He was real quiet. He stayed to himself and took care of his business. They were good people,” he said.
Stas Mukhortov owns the property at 4826 Longshore Ave., which includes apartments and a commercial space.
“He made my soup twenty minutes before it happened,” he said of the victim. “All he did was work, work, work. He worked seven days a week. They were nice people.”
Mukhortov ate his food, then fixed a flat tire, and did not hear the shooting because he was using power tools.
Like others, he wished the owner had taken security measures.
“Every time I’d go in there, I’d say to myself, ‘Where is the bulletproof glass?’ ” he said.
The murder took place a block away from the infamous “dungeon,” where a landlord last October found four mentally challenged and malnourished individuals locked in an apartment basement.
Louis M. Iatarola, whose real estate office is at 4817 Longshore Ave., called the murder “ten times worse” for Tacony than the earlier incident because the alleged abusers were from outside the area.
“The most frightening thing is, these guys are still out there,” he said of the murderers.
Iatarola, who is also a board member of the Historical Society of Tacony and zoning chairman for the Tacony Civic Association, said there’s no way to spin the murder. It’s a stigma on that section of Tacony.
Iatarola described the killers as “animals” for gunning down a helpless shop owner.
“It was a family-run operation. His wife and three kids were out there. He was hard-working. It’s tragic that something like that happened,” he said.
Residents expressed sadness for the victim’s wife.
“They were a nice young couple who came over to this country to try to make a life for themselves. It was a mom-and-pop business,” Broniszewski said.
Residents hope their neighborhood stabilizes.
“Us good guys just got to stick together,” Broniszewski said. ••EndFragment