Fatal shootings send wave of grief, dread through D.C. businesses

By Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2010

On Thursday, a once-vibrant business at Fifth and Neal streets NE was closed for the first time on a workday in years, the storefront shuttered, police tape blocking the doors.

A shooting the day before had left two members of the family that owns the business dead and a community of vendors reeling.

Ming-Kun Chih, 59, died Wednesday at the scene of the 3 p.m. armed robbery, his wholesale store in the 1200 block of Fifth Street NE. His son, Li-Jen Chih, 32, was taken to a hospital, where he died, D.C. police said Thursday.

The shootings followed a fatal daytime robbery June 18 at a check-cashing store in the 2500 block of Benning Road NE. That armed robbery at 10:45 a.m. left one employee dead of a gunshot wound, and a second man was seriously beaten, police said.

In a row of wholesale stores with merchandise as diverse as the neighborhood, Lida's Wholesale had become a fixture.

It was owned and operated by a Korean family described as friendly and good-humored. The family sold touristy knickknacks and clothing items, and the business had been on the corner for at least 15 years, neighboring vendors said.

"It's a real hurtin' feeling," said David Hucks, 41, a regular Lida's customer. "I've never seen the place closed a day in my life."

Robert Simpson knew the victims but not their names, and he had assumed that they were father and son.

"I was coming out of the farmers market, and I looked in the doorway," he said. "The boy was stretched out on the floor, dead."

The vendors on Fifth Street said the shootings punctuate an increase in shoplifting and criminal activity that has become practically a routine part of their business.

"To be honest, I'm not all that surprised," Shahid Kahn, owner of a clothing wholesaler near Lida's, said of the shootings. "We have no protection in this area. There is no security."

Many people who work in the area said it is a haven for homeless people and drug addicts. And most businesses in the area deal with large amounts of cash.

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