A 24-year-old Chinese immigrant bravely described in court yesterday how she and her parents fought off two would-be robbers in their Crescentville store moments before one of the youths allegedly shot and killed her father.
Jiaxing Lu, 47, was pronounced dead at Albert Einstein Medical Center at 11:05 a.m. Aug. 9, about an hour after being shot in his Lu's Grocery store, on Colgate Street near Cheltenham Avenue.
His daughter, LiXia Lu, identified the two youths she had seen in the store that morning - James Canady, 16, of Crescentville, and Darrin White, 19, of North Philadelphia - during their preliminary hearing yesterday.
Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon held both youths for trial on murder, robbery, and weapons and conspiracy charges.
Authorities contend that Canady, then 15, fired the fatal shots.
LiXia, testifying through a Mandarin-Chinese interpreter, said that on that morning, she was in a second-floor room, above the store, when she heard her father shouting in pain.
She said that she rushed downstairs and that when she entered the store, a masked man pointed a gun at her, aiming between her eyes.
She also saw a second man "fighting with my dad" behind the counter and the security-glass barrier.
The daughter said she grabbed cans and threw them toward the man pointing the gun. He dodged, dropping the gun, but quickly picked it up, she said.
"He approached me," she said. "He hit me. Then he threw me down on the floor.
"Then I got up, and I fought him," she said in a quiet, serious voice. "Then that's when I took off his mask."
Asked by Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry if she recognized his face, LiXia said, "Yes."
She identified Canaday as the assailant, and said he "came to our store to rob last year." Before that, "he came to our store every day," she said. (Canady was arrested on robbery charges last year, but the case was dismissed in Family Court for lack of evidence.)
LiXia testified that she pushed Canady out the door while her mother, Yu-Zhen Zheng, who also had rushed from the second floor into the store, hit him in the knee with a soda can. After they forced him out, the daughter locked the door.
Then the second would-be robber tried to flee. LiXia identified him as White. She said he was not wearing a mask when she saw him.
White, LiXia testified, "was screaming to the other guy outside the store, 'Come to help me! Come to help me!' "
She testified that she blocked the door, trying to prevent White from leaving. But he was able to open the door. Just before White escaped, her father grabbed his shirt, tearing off a piece, she said.
During the struggle at the door, the daughter testified, her father was shot in his lower left side and in his right shoulder area.
LiXia said she did not see who had fired the shots.
(Police did not recover a weapon from the store; the Lu family did not own a gun.)
The daughter said she recognized White because he also had been in the store before. And on the day before the shooting, he came to the store about three or four times, she said.
After the hearing, Jiaxing Lu's widow, a grief-stricken Zheng, walked from the court hallway clutching a large, framed photo of her husband. She does not speak English. Family members said she had brought the photo so her husband could be there "in spirit."
The father came to the United States in the early 1990s from Fujian province, China. His family followed in 1999.
Prosecutor Barry contended that both defendants had been armed but that Canady fired the fatal shots as he stood outside.
"He took the time to aim through a 4- to 5-inch crack in an open door to shoot and kill Mr. Lu," Barry told reporters.