Two Koreans were wounded, one critically, during an armed robbery Tuesday at a Lynwood convenience store, authorities said.
Salesclerk Dennis Lee, 36, of Westminster was shot in the leg, and a friend, Young Song, 23, of Pasadena, was shot in the mouth by two black gunmen who demanded cash shortly after entering the store about 9 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said.
Although local Korean community leaders on Wednesday sought to downplay race as a factor in the attack, the shooting comes at a time of tense relations between African-Americans and Korean-American grocers. In the last six months, two Koreans and three blacks have been killed in Korean-owned stores.
Authorities have no leads on the robbers in the Tuesday attack, according to Sheriff's Deputy John Ashley. The assailants were described as black males in their mid-20s, who were armed with a semiautomatic weapon and a .38-caliber revolver.
Song was listed in critical condition Wednesday at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. Lee was treated and released from Charter Suburban Hospital in Paramount.
Ji Ho Lee, the owner of the Market King convenience store in the 10700 block of Long Beach Blvd., said he has had good relations with the residents of the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood his store serves. He stressed that he does not believe that the attack was racially based.
A black customer who has patronized the store for five years described the Korean merchant and his employees as good people who treat customers in a friendly manner. "This (shooting) is terrible," said Lynwood resident Audrey Taylor, who went to the store Wednesday with her children. "It doesn't make any sense."
During the robbery, the owner said, one gunman demanded cash and then shot Song. Lee, the store clerk, scuffled with the suspect, and during the struggle the cash drawer was knocked to the floor, spilling its contents. The second gunman then shot Lee in the leg.
The suspects got away with about $1,300 in cash, according to store owner Lee.
"I feel very bad," Lee said Wednesday, as he waited on customers. He said Tuesday night's shooting was the first time his store had been robbed in the 10 years he has owned it.
Elsewhere Wednesday, there were renewed calls by angry black community leaders to boycott stores operated by Korean merchants suspected of mistreating black customers.
Representatives of the Brotherhood Crusade held a press conference outside another Korean-owned convenience store--the 7 Days Food Store in South-Central Los Angeles--to call attention to an altercation allegedly involving the owner and two delivery men, one of whom was black and the other Latino.
The store owner, In Sool Hwang, was arrested Tuesday afternoon after he allegedly waved a gun at the two men, who work for an egg distributor who has supplied Hwang's store in the past.
"We are trying to eliminate a major catastrophe . . . very specifically, a killing," Brotherhood Crusade President Danny Bakewell said at the sidewalk news conference, which was punctuated by calls from black neighborhood residents to close the store.
Hwang, the store owner, attempted to give his side of the story to the crowd of reporters and black community members but was jeered and frequently interrupted by onlookers.
Bakewell, who was flanked by several prominent black ministers, urged a boycott of the store. At the same time, he expressed hope that an upcoming symposium will help alleviate tensions between African-Americans and Korean shop owners in the city. The session, scheduled to be held Monday for South-Central Los Angeles merchants, is being organized by Mayor Tom Bradley.
Bakewell said he knew little about the Tuesday night shooting. But, he said, "if blacks kill Koreans, we are against that."