There was a killing in Philly yesterday (So field, what else is new?) but this one was a little different. Killings are so common around here that they are usually just worth a line or two on my Killadelphia Murder Count. (See sidebar.) Still, this one had some elements to it that made me want to say a few things.
Ms. Kim (as she was affectionately called by neighbors) was a store owner in the East Mt. Airy/Germantown part of town. This is a fairly solid part of town, made up of primarily working class black folks. They have their share of crime, but nothing like West, North, or Southwest Philly. From all accounts, Ms. Kim was loved and well respected in the neighborhood. She ran the store with her husband and she was always known to let her customers slide if they owed money for their purchases.
Yesterday Ms. Kim lost her life, because she chose to confront one of her customers who had allegedly stolen a bag of potato chips. (Or a mop, depending on who you believe.) Ms. Kim, confronted the alleged thief outside of her store; the women struggled; and when it was over, the shopkeeper was dead. Again, depending on whose account you believe, the killer took a gun out of her pants and shot the shop keeper four times from point blank range in the face. After shooting Ms. Kim the woman allegedly calmly walked to the pay phone and called the police.
People in the community are devastated, and they all want to know how someone could have taken the life of "poor Ms. Kim."
So let's talk for a minute: Apparently the shooter had some mental issues, and everyone in the community knew it. When the woman tried to steal the mop (or the potato chips) should Ms. Kim have confronted her, or should she have called the police? And, what is it, exactly, that is preventing our people from starting or own businesses in certain neighborhoods? Is it because we don't have the financial backing or resources? Is it because we would rather work for someone else? Or is it because the risks are too great and we don't want to end up like Ms. Kim?
And finally, if this woman had mental issues, just how the hell did she get her hands on a handgun? (You don't have to answer that one, I already know) The shooting of Ms. Kim in East Mt. Airy yesterday will make the news for the obvious reason: A cold blooded murder perpetrated by someone of the fairer sex in the middle of the day. But the issues surrounding Ms. Kim's murder are troubling as well. Some of them are uncomfortable, so they will never be spoken out loud. Some of them we will talk about, but not until another tragedy that is so great and so unspeakable merits a pause at the water cooler.