There were two shootings at Min Sik Kim’s Spanaway convenience store early last year — one for which he was sentenced Friday.
That’s where Kim’s head was about a month later, when he fought with and killed a shoplifter trying to flee the store, Kim and his family said.
“He wanted to stop running the business, but he had no choice ...,” Kim’s wife, Seul A Lim, told Pierce County Superior Court Judge John Hickman. “He was under lots of pressure of protecting me, our family, and our business as well.”
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Kim hoped Hickman would consider giving him two years behind bars for the death of 21-year-old Jakeel Mason. And while Hickman did sentence him below the standard range — noting that Kim called 911 and took responsibility for the shooting — the shop owner still got eight years, four months in prison.
“The court finds that the use of deadly force when your own safety is not threatened does not justify shooting someone in the back as they are attempting to leave a store,” the judge said.
Deputy Prosecutor Kathleen Proctor had asked for a sentence of 10 years, three months, the low end of the standard range. Defense attorney Edward Nelson asked for lower: an exceptional sentence of two years.
Friends and family wrote the court that Kim and his wife put in long hours to provide for their family after they bought the shop in the 16600 block of Pacific Avenue South in 2015.
Outside work, loved ones said, Kim is an active volunteer at his church and very involved with his young daughter’s school.
“One of my biggest concerns is my daughter, who has no idea of this situation,” Lim told the judge. “Maybe she could not see her dad for awhile. But I still don’t know how to explain — and none of my family can explain — why.”
Lim and other family members who attended the sentencing sobbed and were visibly distraught throughout the proceedings.
None of Mason’s loved ones appeared to be present.
The prosecutor told Hickman that surveillance video shows Mason died when a man angry about what happened to his wife took that anger out on a shoplifter in his store.
“We value human life over property,” Proctor said.
Court records give this account of the shootings at the store:
On Feb. 18, 2016, Kim left the store to pick up their daughter from school because she had a fever. Lim stayed at the store, and while Kim was gone someone tried to rob her at gunpoint.
She had a gun, too, and pointed it at the robber when he glanced at the door. Both fired, and she was wounded in the abdomen. Her shot missed.
Investigators identified the robber, who earlier his year was sentenced to more than five years in prison.
Weeks after the shooting, on March 25, 2016, Kim confronted a group loitering and drinking outside the store.
While Kim was outside, Mason took several packs of cigarettes. When a customer told Kim, he ran into the store and pointed a gun at Mason. Then he put the gun away, and punched Mason, who hit back.
At some point Mason headed for the door, and Kim shot him twice in the back. Mason died from his injuries, and Kim pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this year.
Defense attorney Nelson said that at the time of the shooting Kim was in a mental state that kept him from clearly understanding what happened at the store until he saw the surveillance video later.
“He was as shocked as anybody else,” Nelson said.
When it was Kim’s turn to address the court, he told the judge he was depressed and anxious at the time about what had happened to his wife. He regrets what he did, he said, and knows he didn’t have the right to take someone’s life.
“In my mind I was defending myself, but I was clearly, clearly wrong,” Kim said.