Tacony takeout owner fatally shot in robbery

Jin Zheng comforts her daughter Mina, 2, as she talks about her husband, Xiang Huang, who wasfatally shot in a robbery Friday at the couple's Chinese takeout in Tacony.
Jin Zheng comforts her daughter Mina, 2, as she talks about her husband, Xiang Huang, who wasfatally shot in a robbery Friday at the couple's Chinese takeout in Tacony. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: January 23, 2012

ON THE EVE of the Chinese New Year, a time for many to celebrate with family, Jin Zheng instead mourned the death of her husband, a Chinese-takeout owner gunned down Friday at their Tacony store.

Zheng, 25, sat solemnly yesterday at a corner of a large, rectangular table during a meeting at the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association in Chinatown while community leaders raised money for her family.

As the second of her three daughters, Mina, 2 1/2, at times cried and at times smiled playfully, Zheng held her and fed her a snack from a plastic bag, which Zheng clutched tightly.

Her husband, Xiang Huang, 27, "took great care of his family," she said in an interview in Mandarin Chinese. She had married him because he was humble.

Zheng's nightmare began shortly before 7 p.m. Friday, when two black men dressed in black - one tall, one short, both wearing ski masks - entered the store, Jin House at Longshore Avenue and Tulip Street, as Zheng sat behind the counter holding their 8-month-old baby, Anna.

"Open the register!" the intruders yelled, raising guns at her, Zheng recalled. Huang went to open the register, and, Zheng said, they both told the robbers: "You can take the money out!"

Zheng then went to the rear of the store - which does not have a protective glass barrier because they couldn't afford it - to put the baby down. But before she could do so, she said, she heard a gunshot. She ran back to find her husband on the ground, then called 9-1-1. When police came, she asked them to bring him to a hospital, but they said they had to wait for an ambulance, she said.

When the ambulance arrived, "he was already dead," she said tearfully. Huang, shot in the chest, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:13 p.m.

Zheng said her husband had been robbed four or five times delivering food from the store, which they had opened in May. They also had been robbed last year in their apartment upstairs.

In light of the past robberies, Yingzhang Lin, president of the restaurant association, said he wondered why police hadn't patrolled the takeout or sent a community-relations officer there. "I would definitely have a car drive by," Lin said.

Huang had not joined the 300-member restaurant association. If he had, Lin said, the association would have been able to offer safety tips.

On Thursday night, law-enforcement authorities met in Elkins Park with Asian-Americans from throughout the region and provided safety tips following the Dec. 27 shooting in Cheltenham of a Chinese-American West Philly deli owner. The victim, Peter Ly, 55, is now recovering at home.

Thursday's meeting, attended by about 50 Korean-Americans and Chinese-Americans, focused on merchants who have been robbery targets as they traveled home - or, in Ly's case, to a bank.

Lin, the restaurant-association president, said Friday's homicide was the first of a Chinese-takeout worker at the victim's business since 2006.

Since then, things had been improving, Lin said. In fact, he said, a few association leaders had met Friday with former Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller to let her know about progress in safety, in hopes that she would pass that on to current Council members.

Friday's robbers, who Zheng estimated were about 19 or 20 years old, fled with $20 bills from the register. She didn't know how much they stole, but said the register had about $100 at the time.

Zheng and her husband, both from Fujian Province, met in the U.S. She moved to Philadelphia in 2000. They met in 2004 in New York and married the next year. They moved to Philly in 2009.

At Jin House, Huang worked every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., said Jian Ming Wong, chairman of the Philadelphia Fujian Association.

Zheng said she will not reopen the takeout, but will be living with her parents in South Philly.

"She hopes her husband can go peaceful . . . to another world," said Steven Zhu, general secretary of the restaurant group.

Yesterday's meeting raised $10,000 for the family for funeral and other costs. For anyone wishing to donate, an account has been opened under Jin Zheng's name at the HSBC branch at 11th and Arch streets.

Tipsters in the case should call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.

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