Spanaway store clerk charged with murder while customers voice support for him

TACOMA, Wash. – Customers are rallying around a Spanaway convenience store clerk charged with second-degree murder after authorities say he shot and killed an unarmed suspected shoplifter.

Min Kim said he fired in self-defense. His supporters say Kim is understandably on edge after his wife was shot and wounded by a suspected robber in their Pacific Quickmart store on Feb. 18.

Officials said Kim has no criminal record; he is married with a 7-year-old child. But prosecutors said Kim should not have pulled the trigger on an unarmed man trying to flee the store. So now he is charged with a felony.

Prosecutors said Kim shot the suspected shoplifter twice in the back last Friday night.

On Monday, Kim told Q13 News that the shoplifting suspect, 21-year-old Jakeel Mason, of  Spanaway, pushed him to the ground and tried to take his gun.

“I pulled my gun out and I shot a couple times,” said Kim.

But prosecutors said surveillance video shows the suspected shoplifter running away after a brief struggle, and then Kim opening fire.

“In the video you can see that the shoplifter is trying to get out of the store,” said Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “The altercation is over with; the shoplifter is exiting and Mr. Kim shoots him twice in the back.”

But Kim’s customers are rallying behind him in support of his actions.

“They are our neighbors and we want to support them,” said Gail Meyer.

“He’s been robbed a few times now and I’m shocked that this is going on,” customer Angela Spragg said.

Kim and his family have endured several robberies at their store on Pacific Avenue South, including one caught on security cameras on Feb. 18 where an armed man traded bullets with Kim’s wife. A bullet ripped through her side but she survived.

Kim’s customers believe prosecutors should be lenient considering what the family has been through.

“I think it’s a little over the top because of what happened to his wife and he’s just trying to defend his self,” Meyer said.

“I wish it didn’t happen in the first place,” said Spragg, “None of it should have happened."

But prosecutors said the key to their murder case is in the surveillance video, which has not been released to Q13 News. Officials said Kim broke the law when he shot and killed the unarmed shoplifting suspect as he tried to get away.

“I understand having sympathy for Mr. Kim, especially what he’s been through,” Lindquist said. “But the law simply doesn’t allow for shooting shoplifters as they’re exiting the store.”

Kim is being held on $200,000 bail.

Prosecutors said Kim could spend 15 to 24 years or more behind bars if convicted.