Lisa Lee, 17, thought she was dreaming at 3 a.m. Wednesday when she opened her bedroom door in Radnor Township to find a stranger wearing a bandanna across his face and holding a gun.
"Make a noise and I'll hurt you," said the intruder, pointing the gun to her head.
Struggling to emerge from sleep, Lee heard the sound of a scuffle downstairs and her father, Jei Lee, crying out in pain.
"I began crying and screaming, 'Don't hurt my dad,' " she said Thursday during a doorstep interview in the three-generation family's tree-lined neighborhood near Bryn Mawr Avenue and Glenwyn Road.
"Tell your dad to cooperate, or I'll hurt you," the bandit said. "Give me the money."
And the family did, Lee said, handing over to four armed and masked bandits $3,000 in cash from Jei Lee's wallet and $23,000 saved by Lee's aunt in her room upstairs.
In all, the four men escaped with $26,000, a computer owned by Lee's brother, the family's jewelry, and a 52-inch TV. The men were described by police as wearing dark clothing with white or black-and-white bandannas, with two more than six feet tall.
Jei Lee, who works at a dry cleaners in Wayne, was pistol-whipped by one of the intruders and was bleeding profusely from a scalp wound when officers arrived, his daughter said. He required treatment at a nearby hospital, but was able to work Thursday.
John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp., said Thursday that Asian American business people were being targeted by criminals, and that the activity seems to run in cycles.
"I'm not sure why they come in spurts, but they do, and it's unfortunate. Part of the pattern is that the criminals follow the merchants home," he said.
Investigators spent from 3:37 until 9 a.m. Wednesday processing the house, but could find few clues because the intruders wore gloves, Lee said.
Police Sgt. Andrew J. Block, of the Radnor investigations unit, said by e-mail Thursday that no arrests had been made. No one saw a fleeing vehicle, Block said, and the TV had not turned up.
He said that officers were trying to learn if the family was targeted because it is Asian. All four robbers were described as African American.
But Lisa Lee said she had been told by police that the businesses her two uncles own - a dry cleaners at 15 W. Seventh St. in Chester, and Brewers Outlet, a beer distributor at 48th and Spruce Streets - may have been the link.
"If you have an OK-looking car and own a business, they think you might have money," Lee said she was told, adding it was possible the bandits followed her uncles home.
Other Asian families have been targeted for home invasions in recent years. One resulted in the death of businessman Robert Chae, who suffocated after being bound too tightly with duct tape by intruders on Jan. 9, 2009.
Chae, 58, of Montgomeryville, owned a beauty supply store in Center City. He and his family were tied up and robbed of $15,000 to $20,000 in cash, jewelry, and a bank book.
Seven people were arrested in connection with the crime. Two are serving life prison sentences for second-degree murder, a third is serving 16 to 32 years, a fourth was acquitted, and the others, including Chae's nephew, are awaiting sentencing.
Chin said part of the problem may be the economic downturn. Another piece, he said, may be the reluctance of recent immigrant merchants to call police when they see suspicious activity.
"Maybe these perpetrators know this," Chin said. In Chinatown, neighborhood watches are being formed, but it's difficult to protect merchants who are targeted at home, Chin said.
He called Wednesday's crime at the Lee home "brazen."
"It's one thing to rob a house where nobody is home," Chin said. "It's another thing to break into a house where people are sleeping."
What struck Lisa Lee about the home invasion was the viciousness of the attack and the way the men tied up frail family members with telephone cords and corralled them into a room upstairs.
Lee would not disclose her family's names, but said that her father, two uncles, aunt, brother, grandmother, and grandfather reside in the house. Lee, who lives in Massachusetts with her mother, was visiting her relatives.
The grandfather, 96, and the grandmother, who walks with a three-point cane, were made to lie facedown on the floor with their hands tied behind their backs, Lee said. Her aunt and uncle were forced to lie face down on a bed.
The bandits gained entry through an unlocked basement door that opens to Lee's brother's apartment. Lee said the intruders tied her brother up before casing the rest of the house.
As the bandits left, they made sure her aunt's and an uncle's hands were tied loosely enough to allow them to get free and call for help, Lee said. Once they were gone, her father crawled upstairs to help the others, Lee said.
Asked if she had any advice in the wake of the attack, Lee didn't hesitate.
"Lock your doors," she said. "You never know what will happen anymore."
Radnor police are asking anyone with information to call 610-688-0503.