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Spanaway clerk shoots, kills robbery suspect: Was it self-defense?

KOMO photo

SPANAWAY, Wash. - Pierce County sheriff's investigators are poring over surveillance video to find out whether or not a Spanaway store clerk shot an alleged robber in self-defense.

The shooting killed the suspect. And in an exclusive interview with KOMO News, clerk Ben Kim said his split-second decision will change his life forever.

He was working the register at the Pacific Quickmart on Friday when two men kept causing trouble, harassing other customers, according to Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer. Kim kicked them out, but they came back into the store and tried to steal cigarettes, Troyer said.

Troyer says there was some sort of confrontation, and one of the suspects was shot and killed at the scene.

In his interview with KOMO, Kim says the confrontation unfolded when one of the suspects went to the cash register. Kim says he pulled out a gun, and at first it looked like the man would surrender. Instead he knocked Kim to the ground and grabbed for his gun, Kim said.

"It was going to be either me or him, and I don't want to leave my family behind," Kim said. So he pulled the trigger, killing the suspect, who stumbled and fell in the doorway. He was later identified as Jakeel Mason, 21, of Tacoma.

At that point, the second suspect immediately sat down and waited for police to arrive. He was not arrested and is cooperating with police during the investigation.

Records show this is the third time in just as many months that thieves have targeted the store. Just last month, Kim's wife was shot in the stomach during a gun battle with a man who robbed the store while a woman and child waited in a car for him outside.

Kim's wife survived the shooting, but she is still recovering from her wound, so her husband worked her normal Friday night shift.

Kim says the shooting that killed the suspect that night was captured on the store's surveillance video, which he turned over to sheriff's investigators.

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