Store where serial rapist was killed reopens The shopkeeper who shot the knife-wielding man shrugged off talk that he was a hero - and put in a security barrier.

Posted: January 07, 2005

Ngoc Le's East Camden cell-phone and fishing-supply store reopened yesterday with a new feature: a thick Plexiglas security barrier walling off the sales counter.

The store had been closed since New Year's Eve, when Ngoc, 28, shot and killed a knife-wielding assailant who held a blade to his wife's throat.

The attacker turned out to be the serial rapist who had terrorized Camden's central business district, assaulting a high school student, a college student and a photo-store employee.

Ngoc had no way of knowing that the man who attacked his wife had raped three women, frustrated police, and badly shaken a reviving downtown community.

And the suggestion that Ngoc had been a hero drew no comment, only a slight shrug.

Ngoc and his wife, Kelly, who was working the sales counter yesterday, said they were fine and moving on with their business. While the store was closed, Ngoc had the security barrier installed, which he said "cost me a lot of money to put up."

He had no choice, he said. Ngoc, a Vietnamese immigrant, could not afford to give up a business he had owned for three years. He has begun a money-wiring service, and he said he planned to sell lottery tickets along with the admittedly odd combination of wireless equipment and fishing poles and nets.

In his three years at 27th Street and Westfield Avenue, Ngoc said, he had never been robbed, never had any problems.

Then Antonio Diaz Reyes, a 32-year-old who had lived in Philadelphia and Puerto Rico, entered the store. Ngoc was in the bathroom, and his wife was alone at the counter.

In each of the downtown rapes, the attacker had sought out women who were alone. In the last rape, he followed the lone employee of a photo store back inside after her cigarette break.

Reyes asked Ngoc's wife for a cellular-phone clip, Ngoc said. As she went to retrieve the item, Reyes jumped over the counter and grabbed her. Ngoc heard his wife call out his name.

"Real loud, like in a different way," he said.

Ngoc grabbed his gun - a legally owned .380-caliber pistol -and confronted Reyes, who was forcing his wife toward the back of the store with a knife at her throat.

"I told him to drop the knife and leave," Ngoc said. "Every time he pushed my wife, I backed up to another room."

Reyes yelled that he would kill Kelly Ngoc, 22.

Finally, Ngoc was nearly out of room. They had moved into a small living area at the back of the store, where Ngoc sometimes stays instead of driving home to Philadelphia. Reyes was four feet away, still holding the knife to Kelly Ngoc's throat.

"I just saw an opening," Ngoc said, "and I pulled the trigger."

Ngoc fired once, striking Reyes in the head and killing him instantly.

Police noticed that Reyes fit the description of the downtown rapist. DNA test results released Wednesday were a "perfect match," authorities said.

Ngoc bought a newspaper Monday to learn more about the rapes, and a prosecutor called him Wednesday with the news of the DNA match.

While Ngoc shrugged off the idea that he had been a hero, another man behind the counter urged him to "wish good luck" to Reyes' victims.

Ngoc took the advice, wished the victims well, and said they "don't have to worry" about Reyes anymore.

Contact staff writer Troy Graham

at 856-779-3893 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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