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Slaying shatters a young family

Tacony neighbors mourned a shop owner, gunned down by two robbers in front of his wife and baby girl.

Jin House restaurant where owner, Huang Xiang, was shot and killed (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Jin House restaurant where owner, Huang Xiang, was shot and killed (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)Read more

At home and at work, Xiang and Jin Huang lived their lives as a family.

They raised their three daughters in an upstairs apartment at Longshore Avenue and Tulip Street in the city's Tacony section. Downstairs, they watched over the girls as they ran Jin House, a Chinese take-out restaurant and corner store.

On Friday, the family's daily routine was interrupted when two masked men walked into the store with guns and attempted to rob the couple. One gunman shot Xiang Huang, 27, in the chest, while his wife - holding their baby daughter - stood only a few feet away. Xiang Huang was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It's sad, sad, sad," said Roberta Salley, 50, a neighbor who often babysat for the couple. "I'm going to miss him. ... I know it will haunt [his wife] forever."

Neighbors mourned Xiang Huang's death Saturday at a nighttime vigil outside the shuttered store.

Twenty-four hours earlier, the two men, described as wearing ski masks, had entered the store. Jin Huang, also 27, sitting at the counter holding the baby. Her husband was cooking at the stove, police said.

The men, both with guns, told the couple to open the register. Jin Huang yelled for them to "take the money, take the money."

As Xiang Huang went to the cash register, his wife started walking to the back of the store to shield the baby. She heard gunfire, ran, and found her husband had been shot in the chest. The gunmen ran away with no money, police said.

In interviews, Xiang Huang was described as sweet and generous, a shop owner who would let a neighborhood child have an order of cheese fries on a promise of payment.

"They were such a nice couple," said Ellen Broniszewski, 48, who lives down the street. "They came over trying to establish themselves and were trying to make it."

Immigrants from Fuzhou, the capital of the Fujian province in China, the Huangs had moved to the neighborhood and opened their store last spring, Salley said.

Jin House specialized in take-out and delivery. The store also stocked cigarettes, cereal, toilet paper, detergent, and other household items. Inside, there was a small table where the Huangs' eldest daughter - whom Salley identified as Cindy, age 5 - sometimes did her homework.

The other daughters are Mina, 3, and Anna, 8 months, Salley said.

In the short life of their business, the Huangs had been robbed at least four times, neighbors said. Once, Xiang Huang was lured out of the store after receiving a bogus delivery call, Broniszewski said.

He was then robbed on a nearby porch. The store was also robbed by a neighborhood youth who had frequently patronized the store, neighbors said.

But the couple did not have protective glass or security cameras, police and neighbors say. Business wasn't good. Salley said Jin Huang, also known as "Candy," told her that the family couldn't afford the extra protection.

Security cameras across the street recorded the suspects, police said.

"We encourage owners to have cameras in the store, and lighting outside," said Yingzhang Lin, president of the 300-member Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association.

Coincidentally, the organization had met with city officials Friday, before the shooting, to discuss security issues, Lin said. The restaurant association is planning to hold a crime-prevention seminar in response to the shooting.

On Friday, residents gathered outside as police surrounded the scene, neighbors said. Salley embraced a distraught Jin Huang, who was hysterically and tearfully speaking to her in Chinese even though Salley couldn't understand her. When Jin Huang's mother arrived, Jin Huang collapsed in her arms.

Shortly after, neighbor Patricia Batista said she watched from a corner as Huang's sister carried Mina across the street. When the sister nearly slipped, Batista ran to embrace them, to make sure they didn't fall.

Batista has started a fund to help the family. The first contribution is $21 that Batista had saved as the start of a vacation fund to take her grandchildren to the Jersey Shore in the summer. Batista planned to place jars in local businesses to help out the Huang family.

The neighborhood of apartments, rooming houses, and single-family homes has been plagued by violence in recent years, neighbors said.

The Huangs apparently had had enough of struggling to earn a living there. They were planning to close the shop soon, police said.