A Korean grocery store owner, who neighbors said has been robbed numerous times at his East Baltimore corner store, was shot in the head and severely wounded last night by a holdup man, police said.
The grocer, Sung Shin, 43, whose home address was not immediately available, was shot shortly before 7:30 p.m. by one of two robbers who entered the Best Food Mart at the corner of East North Avenue and North Washington Street, police said.
He was listed in very critical condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night.
"They've been robbing him for a long time," said Kevin Dorsey, 15, one of the grocer's neighborhood customers who watched the ambulance take him away.
"He don't deserve this," the boy said. "He's always been real nice to us."
Minutes after the shooting, two men drove past the crime scene in a Ford Escort and parked across the street. They were arrested after an officer questioned them about what they were doing, police said.
The men were handcuffed and put into a police wagon amid cheers from about 100 people who had gathered.
Homicide detectives said last night that the men were being questioned and had not been charged.
Neighbors said the victim has run the grocery store for at least six years with his wife, daughter and granddaughter. Police brought a Korean-speaking interpreter to the scene to talk with family members.
About a dozen children stood outside the police line and peered into the tiny store, located in the heart of an area that police say is overrun with drug problems.
"It's where we buy potato chips," said Lonnie Terry, 12.
Another child, Michael Goode, 11, asked: "Are they going to close the shop now?"
Twelve-year-old Rashad Wilson said the grocer "was the kind of guy who would let me buy something for 50 cents, even if it really cost 53."
The children said they usually go to the store every day to buy candy, doughnuts and ice cream.
"This is one of their [the children's] places to go that we don't mind," said Tracy Wilson, who has three youngsters.
"If they can't buy candy, they'll start using their change to buy drugs. I hope they don't close the store."
Police wouldn't say last night whether any money had been taken from the business.
Several of the victim's family members arrived at the shop, weeping in front of the building.
Neighbors said the store has been the site of numerous robberies in the past and has been robbed at least three times this year.
Police in the Eastern District said they didn't have a figure for the number of times the shop has been robbed, but they said North Avenue businesses in the area are hard hit by armed robbers.
Others who gathered outside the store said the area has been plagued lately by two men who have been robbing stores.
However, police were unable to say whether any of the robberies are related.
Korean merchants have been hard hit by crime, and violence during armed robberies is not unusual.
The most widely publicized case involved the shooting last fall of the owner of Treate's restaurant, Myung Jin Shin, 32.
Mr. Shin was killed during a robbery at the popular downtown restaurant, located near the Mitchell Courthouse.
Four people later were convicted in his murder.
Most recently, a 30-year-old Korean merchant who was selling illegal fireworks from a van in East Baltimore was fatally wounded during a July dispute over fireworks stolen from the van.