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Carryout owner testifies in own defense: 'I just wanted to drive them away'

Fu Tan, a West Baltimore Chinese carryout owner, testifies at own attempted murder trial that he was in fear f

The owner of a Chinese carryout in West Baltimore took the stand Wednesday at his attempted-murder trial and insisted that he fired a handgun three times into the ground to scare off a group of unruly customers in February.

Speaking through an interpreter, the owner, Fu Tan, said he was in fear for his life.

"I just wanted to drive them away, and prove to them I did have a weapon," Tan testified.

Instead of striking the pavement, at least one of the bullets struck the thigh of another man who had just left the store. Prosecutors allege Tan intentionally fired at him and tried to kill him.

The defense, however, said Tan had no reason to want to harm him. The customer, Avrian Merchant, testified Tuesday that two other people in the store were yelling at Tan about their food order.

Tan has been held without bond since the February incident, which occurred in the 1800 block of W. North Ave.

On Wednesday Tan testified that the four unruly customers entered his store three times that night.

The first time, they looked at the menu and left. They came back a second time and ordered, but complained it was not correct and asked for something else. Tan said he made the new order and refunded the difference.

When they came back a third time with a mostly empty food container, asking for a full refund, he said he refused.

"Their attitude was very mean," Tan testified. "I do not want anything unhappy to happen in my store."

Tan said a woman customer threw food at the wall. He said a man started banging his body against a plastic glass door that separates customers from employees. At that point, Tan said, he believed he was going to be robbed or that they would break down the door.

"I am 64 years old," Tan said. "I'm afraid they will come back to destroy the store. It has happened several times."

Tan said he retrieved a legally owned revolver from a black plastic bag under his counter, and opened the door. The group ran out.

Tan stood up from the witness stand and demonstrated firing the shots, pointing his hand at the ground. Merchant, who was across the street after leaving with his order, was hit at least once and said he turned around and saw Tan with his arm raised.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Videtta A. Brown rejected a request by public defender Martin Cohen to dismiss the charges against Tan after the state presented its case.

"You have someone behind a Plexiglas enclosure, that the court believes is a place of safety, who comes through not one but two doors," Brown said. "At some point, there's time to think about what you're doing."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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