A wig store owner in Downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District was stabbed to death while trying to stop a robbery.
The store owner, Du Young “Tommy” Lee, 56, was working at his shop near the intersection of Wall Street and Olympic Boulevard when two 17-year-olds tried to rob him at around 1 p.m. on Oct.1.
“They were looking at a wig. And then all of a sudden they made a run for it. Tommy had a record of being tough and going after robbers,” the landlord of the store told FOX 11 after watching the surveillance video of the incident.
Lee was fatally stabbed multiple times when he tried to stop the two robbers, a male and a female.
“He started chasing them around the shopping center and then the boy pulled out a knife and shanked him right in the heart,” the landlord added. “I don’t think he ever imagined he would be murdered over a wig.”
Lee was discovered unconscious and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Cruz.
The suspects were arrested shortly after the attack. Their identities were not released because they are minors.
“Mr. Lee was killed in the middle of the day on a busy street in downtown LA while simply trying to run his business,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a press release on Wednesday. “His death is a tremendous loss for his friends, family and all who knew him. I want to make it clear that my office will work diligently to hold accountable individuals who engage in violent acts – even if they are minors.”
The teens each face one count of murder and one count of second-degree robbery.
Lee immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea and had been operating his wig shop for over 20 years.
His 25-year-old daughter Chaerin has set up a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help raise money for her father’s funeral expenses in the U.S. and in South Korea.
“Over the past five years, my father has been in multiple incidents like this. Every time he would come back home with injuries like this, I would tell him, ‘Just give it to them, it’s too dangerous,’ but not once did he listen,” Chaerin wrote.
Following the incident, Chaerin spoke with one of her father’s neighboring store owners.
“Tommy wasn’t fighting for himself, he was protecting all the small business owners there. Because if you just let them steal easily, they are going to keep coming back. He was more like a brave heroic figure to us,” one of the store owners told Chaerin.
“After hearing this, aside from anger, I am proud of my father and his bravery,” Chaerin wrote. “It is deeply saddening for me that my father is now gone, but as his only daughter, and the only remaining family member he has here in the United States, I know it is my duty to send him in peace. Physically I am now here alone in the United States, but I know my father will guide me for the rest of my life with his bravery and love. I know I am not alone.”
Featured Image via Chaerin Lee via GoFundMe