Lu Jiaxing and his family ran a restaurant in Delaware County, but the work was hard and the hours long. Two years ago, the immigrants from China's Fujian province bought a grocery store in Northeast Philadelphia, hoping life would be easier.
But the family, like many merchants in the city, lived with a sense of menace, selling goods at night from their shop at the corner of Colgate Street and Cheltenham Avenue through a slot in the protective Plexiglas barrier that is a feature in stores around the city. There was a robbery attempt at the store in November, and just last week, a resident was shot to death a half-block away in the Crescentville neighborhood.
Thursday morning, as Lu was alone in his store, there was another robbery attempt. This time, he fought back against two masked intruders. Lu, 49, was shot and killed during the struggle, which also drew in his 24-year-old daughter, Lu LiXia.
Yesterday, one of the suspects, Derrin White, 19, accompanied by family members and a minister, surrendered at police headquarters, where he was charged with murder, robbery and weapons offenses.
Police continued their search for his 15-year-old alleged accomplice, James Canady, whom police said was the same teen who tried to rob the store eight months ago.
The Lu family, meanwhile, has given up on the city and plans to move to New York.
"I know Philadelphia is not safe. But I have never imagined this tragedy . . . could happen to my family. It is a nightmare," Lu LiXia said.
"Everybody's got guns in all of the neighborhood," she said. "We can't stay anymore. If we came back, next time it could be me or my mom. American law is too good to the juveniles. . . . They should do something about gun control."
Yesterday afternoon, Canady's mother, Camilla Brown, sat on the front porch of the family house on tree-lined Carver Street, two blocks from Lu Grocery.
"My sympathy goes out to the family," she said. "I feel grief and remorse. It's a tragedy on both sides. They lost their loved one and . . . I don't know."
A neighbor, block captain Dinette Brown, described Canady as a good kid who helped to sweep the street during neighborhood cleanups and wanted to play football.
"He was always respectful to me," she said. "He helped me carry my groceries. . . . You raise your children the best you can, but there's peer pressure out here. . . . I'm just as shocked as everybody else.
"He had dreams like everyone else," she said. "Nobody wants to be a robber or a killer."
Like some other residents, she expressed some discomfort with Lu Jiaxing, saying she thought he viewed black people with suspicion. Other residents, though, said Lu made a point of knowing his customers so well that he knew what each typically bought at the store.
"About two months ago, when it got dark at about 6 or 7 p.m., he started closing down and selling food through a slot," Brown said. "I did have a problem with that. But he did seem to be a decent man. Once, I lost my ... card in his ATM and he went out of his way to get it back for me the next day."
Another neighborhood resident, Edward Molizone, 74, touched on the suspicion that often exists between black residents and Asian merchants.
"A lot of blacks don't go to the Chinese store because they feel the Chinese think they steal from them," he said. "I don't have a complex about that."
But Molizone said that he was disturbed when he heard that Lu's wife dismantled a makeshift memorial to her husband created by neighborhood residents.
"I was hurt this morning when she took all the teddy bears and put them in the trash," he said.
Lu LiXia recalled her father's last minutes.
She was upstairs in the family's apartment when she said she heard her father shouting and ran to find him struggling with two masked robbers.
"I joined the fighting and we pulled off their masks. I saw that they were customers who came to buy snacks and drinks almost every day," Lu LiXia said.
Police said the Lus first forced Canady out the door, followed by White. But instead of running, one of them - detectives believe it was Canady - fired twice into the open door, hitting Lu in the chest before fleeing.
Lu LiXia also recognized Canady as the youth who tried to rob the store in November with what officials said was an inoperable BB gun.
Canady originally was charged as an adult, but the case was transferred to Family Court, where a judge dismissed the charges for lack of evidence.
Lu LiXia recalled answering a subpoena and waiting for hours at Family Court before officials told her to go home. But when she apparently did not appear for a subsequent hearing, the charges were dismissed.
"This time, if the court wants me to testify, I will absolutely testify," she said. "My father was an honest, nice and hardworking man. He worked hard all his life and didn't get a chance to enjoy his life."