Regulars who stopped by the Yasmin Food Market at 23rd and Jefferson streets in North Philadelphia could always be sure of one thing: Craig Young would be there, making tasty sandwiches at mealtimes, stocking shelves or offering smiles to the good kids and stern words to the mischief-makers.
But the regulars who wandered past the shuttered corner store yesterday morning had only tears and teddy bears to add to a growing memorial outside Yasmin's after Young became the city's latest victim of gun violence.
Young, 41, a father of two, was sitting on an ice-cream cooler during a break in business Thursday night when a shoot-out erupted outside the store. A stray bullet that blasted through the store's front door hit him in the chest. Doctors declared him dead about an hour later at Hahnemann University Hospital.
He was the second merchant killed this week in bloodshed that boosted the city's homicide tally to 379 so far this year.
A customer found Anthony D'Antonio, 60, shot to death Tuesday afternoon in the furniture store he owned on 58th Street near Elmwood Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia.
Both cases remain unsolved.
"This should not have happened," said Florence Young, burying her face in her hands and sobbing as she talked about her son - the sixth of her seven offspring - near Yasmin's yesterday. "I'm 72 years old, and I thought I'd never live through this."
Young's slaying seems like one that should be easy to solve, but investigators said last night they still have no suspects.
The shooting happened across the street from two public-housing towers that hundreds of people call home, at a time - just after 5:30 p.m. - when people would have been outside. Two guard shacks outside the towers' entrances had security on duty at the time of the shoot-out. And four security cameras are affixed to the towers and guard shacks within view of Yasmin's.
But police sources said the cameras on the towers weren't working, and the guards understandably dropped to the ground when they heard the gunfire erupt.
Police say they have also been stymied by the typical taciturnity of witnesses that keeps so many murder cases unsolved.
That enraged many people who knew Young, who was familiar to everyone because he had worked at Yasmin's for years despite several ownership changes.
"It's a disgrace," said Mecca Muhammad, 29, who lives nearby and was a Yasmin's regular. "It's time for this city to clean up. It's time for people to stop closing their blinds. It's time for people to start talking."
Police said that close to 30 shots had been fired during the gunbattle, several of which hit parked cars. Shattered glass littered the street near Yasmin's.
Muhammad said such violence isn't uncommon outside the housing project, known as the Norman Blumberg Apartments, even though the Gen. John F. Reynolds School sits in the next block. At least nine bullet holes - some of which appeared old - pockmarked Yasmin's stucco wall and pull-down security door.
"Just a whole bunch of knuckleheads. They don't want to do nothing. They don't want to get jobs," Muhammad said of area thugs, who keep residents on edge with their ears pricked for gunfire.
Yasmin's customer Francis Hargrove, 32, agreed: "My kids go to that store all the time too - this could have happened to anyone."
Carolyn Young, tears streaming down her cheeks, expressed quiet outrage as she left the apartment in one Blumberg tower where her mother Florence lives, to make funeral arrangements for her murdered brother.
"It doesn't make sense, all this shooting out here," Carolyn Young said. "They got to do something about these guns. They need gun control."
Young left behind a 21-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. He lived in an apartment in a red-brick rowhouse on 18th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue, about a half-mile from Yasmin's; two young women there who said they were his nieces declined to comment yesterday. *