Merchants and residents who live and work near where a 76-year-old man was killed during a convenience store robbery on July 4 in Northwest Washington pushed police on Wednesday for increased protection, cleaner streets and a safer neighborhood.
When police suggested they invest in surveillance cameras, the business owners said they didn’t have enough money. When a woman asked whether too many officers had been moved out of the area to work fireworks, the police chief countered that she had every cop in the District working.
Many who spoke out at the meeting at the Fourth District police station on Georgia Avenue complained about blight and people hanging around looking suspicious.
The meeting came a week after James Oh died from injuries suffered during the robbery at Colorado and 14th streets NW, in 16th Street Heights .
“To have to go through a partition jus to get a soda, I hope that ‘s not what it’s coming to,” said Christina Miranda, who lives in the neighborhood and wants to open a business in the same block as Oh’s store, the now-shuttered Gold Corner Market.
The meeting attracted about two dozen people, including several Korean merchants who questioned D..C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier through a translator. “I know this is a real troubling incident,” Lanier said. “He was a loved neighbor and business owner.”
Oh and his wife were attacked shortly before closing for the evening by two masked men, at least one of them carrying a handgun. A police report says that the Oh’s wife was nervous and could not open the cash drawer. After she was hit, police said Oh opened it and handed the attackers $3,000. Then, police said the gunman hit him over the head with the weapon. Oh died on July 8.
D.C. police released video surveillance of the attack and said the men sped away in a car that had been reported stolen that day from a street near the store. The car has been recovered.
Police are asking for help finding the men and Lanier said that even though they were masked, she pleaded with merchants to study the video carefully and see if anyone recognizes clothing or mannerisms that would indicate they had been in other shops or hanging out on the street before the robbery.
Capt. Robert Alder, head of the homicide unit, said that 13,000 people have watched the video of the attack.
Some merchants asked Lanier about getting an adjacent park spruced up and moving vagrants out, saying customers are too scared to leave their cars to shop. Others wanted to know if there was funding for security measures; grant money is available, city officials said. Lanier also urged the store owners to take down display ads that block windows, saying that robbers are less likely to target stores that people walking by can see into.
Council member Muriel E. Bowser (D-Ward 4), the Democratic nominee for mayor, also attended the meeting. The store is in the ward she represents. She shook hands with Oh’s brother-in-law, who only speaks Korean.