Xiaoding Li was behind the counter of his family’s small corner grocery in South Philadelphia early Tuesday evening when two men wearing ski masks entered. One had a 9mm pistol. Within minutes, the gunman had fired one shot, fatally wounding the 31-year-old Li in the chest.
The two fled JD Hoyu Grocery at Ninth and Porter Streets shortly after the 5:48 p.m. attack.
On Wednesday, homicide detectives said that they were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting, and that it was unclear whether anything was taken.
Police said a customer walked into the store shortly after the shooting and found Li bleeding and unresponsive. Medics rushed him to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where the father of two was declared dead at 6:26 p.m.
No arrests have been made, leaving police on the hunt for the assailants and a neighborhood mourning.
Less than 24 hours after the shooting, residents of the quiet South Philadelphia neighborhood remembered Li as a kind, hardworking brother, husband, and father who was respectful to all who walked into his parents’ store. Neighbors gathered around the closed store’s steps Wednesday night, adding to a growing collection of candles, teddy bears, and flowers.
“I walk here every day with my son,” said Kelly Darmi, 33, who has lived around the corner on Mildred Street for 15 years. “It’s just a shame. That’s somebody’s child, somebody’s father.”
“He was one of the nicest kids you’d ever want to talk to,” said Kevin Kinkade, 58, who’s lived across the street from the bodega for 25 years. “We were all praying that it wasn’t him.”
Li frequently worked in the store where he was shot and another family store at Ninth and Wolf Streets, swapping shifts at both stores with his parents and younger sister.
Ron Voci, who lives next door to the Wolf Street store, said he has known the Li family for more than 15 years and frequently drops by to say hello. Li was saving money to buy a new house, said Voci, who is deaf and had his nephew translate sign language over FaceTime.
The 75-year-old lifelong resident of South Philly attended Li’s wedding in New York in 2014. He keeps the red invitation in his kitchen and remembered the evening as a spectacular night of love and great food.
As residents grappled with the death, some felt shocked that the violence happened so early in the evening.
“Oh, God, it’s just horrible," said Leon Raymond Mitchell, 64, who lives near the Wolf Street store. “For someone to do that? ... That’s something that is going to affect the whole neighborhood.”