The beloved owner of Andy's Food Market said yesterday that he was "overwhelmed" by the grief-stricken customers who consoled him after his wife was killed 12 days ago outside their East Mount Airy store.
When Chong Chin Kim, 70, reopened the store on Monday, "everyone who went in shook his hand and offered their condolences," said a 56-year-old customer who lives near the store, at Chew Avenue and Phil-Ellena Street.
An impressive stack of sympathy cards Kim had received from mourners lay behind the counter yesterday.
"I love this neighborhood," said Kim, a short, slender man.
"A lot of neighbors come back. They want me to open," he added. "A lot of neighbors are good people, very kind. I was really overwhelmed. They support me very much. Everyone loved my wife."
Jong Youn Kim, 61, was shot four times in the face at 12:49 p.m. on June 18 by a woman she had once banned from the store for shoplifting, witnesses said.
Nicole Dolby-Becham, 27, of Musgrave Street near Phil-Ellena, was arrested the day of the shooting and charged with murder, aggravated assault, simple assault, theft and related offenses, police said.
Ronnie Butler, who works at a car-detailing shop next door and witnessed the crime, says that Kim isn't ready to hear about what happened to his wife that day.
"I know he isn't going to heal any time soon," Butler said. "I feel his pain because I lost my wife, too."
It all started a few minutes after Kim drove away to buy supplies for the store.
Butler recalled that he had been talking with a customer about detailing his car when he turned around.
"Miss Kim had both hands on the collar of [Dolby-Becham's] jacket," he said.
Because of their size difference - Kim was petite and frail, and her assailant was "big and tall" - Dolby-Becham "just dragged Miss Kim out the door," Butler said.
Then, Dolby-Becham "struck Miss Kim once, then twice, and knocked her to the ground," Butler said.
During the struggle, "Miss Kim grabbed her by the hair, but [Dolby-Becham] had a wig on," Butler said.
Dolby-Becham took a gun "out of her waistband, cursed [Miss Kim] and spit on her face and then shot her four times [in the face] point blank," Butler said.
Police said a surveillance tape shows that Dolby-Becham had gone behind the counter, taken the store's gun and stuck it in her waistband.
After the shooting, "the security guard attacked the girl from the back, Butler added. "The young lady and the security guard fell on Miss Kim by the [outdoor] phone."
Then, Dolby-Beacham "picked up the wig, cussed and walked to the phone," and called 9-1-1, Butler said.
"Then she took the wig, and stuck the gun in her waistband, and crossed Chew Avenue. When she saw the cops coming, she ran down a driveway, by a tan house, and hid the gun in the bushes, and came out on the other side of the house," he said.
Police arrested Dolby-Becham on the steps of the tan house, and later found the gun.
After she was handcuffed and walking to the police car, "she spit in my face," said Butler, one of several residents who identified Dolby-Becham as Miss Kim's killer.
Yesterday, Dolby-Becham's preliminary hearing was postponed.
Public defender Thurston Matthews asked for a psychiatric evaluation of his client for an Aug. 18 hearing.
Meantime, neighbors continued to check on the owner.
As customers waited in line yesterday, Kim asked Vincent Scott, 14, to thank his mother, Theresa, who had made food for Kim last night.
"That's my buddy," said another customer, Bernadette Webb, 41, who grew up in the neighborhood.
"I can tell him anything."