EVEN AFTER HE WAS robbed and slashed in the neck, a South Street storeowner watched over the precious cargo his assailants had left behind like heavy baggage - a 4-year-old boy.
"You don't leave no one behind, but you especially don't leave kids behind," said the 34-year-old owner of Platinum Ice & Jewelry, an Israeli immigrant who asked not to be identified.
Police were making headway yesterday in determining the identities of the man and woman who robbed the store on Saturday and their relationship to the boy they abandoned, Sgt. Ray Evers, police spokesman, said.
Police said they hoped to be able to issue arrest warrants in the case today.
The storeowner said he was working with an employee in his shop near 6th Street when about 3:30 p.m. a man, a woman and a child entered together, appearing to be a family.
He said the man and woman asked his employee to look at engagement rings, and once several boxes were pulled out onto the counter, they grabbed them and took off running with the child in tow.
"My instinct was to run after them, and I ran with my employee," he said.
The owner said he caught up with the thieves in a nearby City Blue clothing store as they were switching bags.
When they came out of the store, the man and the woman split up, with the woman taking the bags of jewelry and the man taking the child by the hand, he said.
The owner said he and his employee went after the man and confronted him on Rodman Street near 7th.
When he approached, the storeowner said, the man "just cut my throat."
As if in shock, the storeowner chased the suspect for another block and a half, he said.
"Even when he cut my throat, I continued to chase after him," he said. "It happened so fast I didn't feel nothing."
After that block and a half, the storeowner said, he watched in shock as the robber unclenched the little boy's hand from his own and left the child behind as he continued running.
"Oh, that poor baby, he was crying," the storeowner said.
Only when he stopped to care for the abandoned child did the storeowner notice his own injuries. "I was bleeding like crazy," he said. "It took 12 stitches and glue to fix me."
The owner said that before getting medical help, he picked up the child and took him to the nearest police station.
Although the boy's identity has not been released, his photograph has been - to speed up the investigation into who left him behind, police said.
As of last night, the boy was in the custody of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.
The storeowner, who said he moved to the United States from Israel "eight or nine years ago," said he doesn't know when he'll be able to reopen his shop.
Just last month, on Valentine's Day, he moved a block down the street to a bigger store after operating in the same location for five years, he said.
Police estimated the theft at around $50,000, but the owner declined to estimate his loss, except to say that the thieves took at least 20 diamond rings.
"It's a lot of money," he said.
But the money and the jewelry are nothing compared to what they left behind.
"If it's a million-dollar ring, it's not worth it," he said. "Whatever it is, it can't be worth it."