Prosecutor: Spanaway store owner shot fleeing shoplifter in the back

Min Sik "Ben" Kim appears in court during his arraignment on March 29, 2016.(KOMO photo)

TACOMA, Wash. - A Spanaway convenience store owner who claimed he shot a shoplifter in self-defense actually shot the man twice in the back as he was trying to flee the store with a stolen pack of cigarettes, the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday.

The store owner, Min Sik Kim, 30, was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder in connection with the deadly shooting of the shoplifter, later identified as Jakeel Rashon Mason, 21. Kim pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday and was ordered held on $200,000 bail.

"The defendant's frustrations are understandable, but his actions were not lawful," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "Shop owners cannot legally shoot unarmed shoplifters attempting to flee."

According to the Prosecutor's Office, the incident unfolded Friday evening as a group of men were loitering outside Kim's store, and Kim went outside to tell them to leave.

Video surveillance from inside the store shows that while Kim was outside, Mason attempted to steal cigarettes from behind the counter. As Kim entered the store, he pulled out a pistol from his waistband and held Mason at gunpoint, says a statement issued by the Pierce County prosecutor.

Mason put his hands up and Kim backed him up against a store shelf. Kim then put his gun back in his waistband and punched Mason in the face. The two struggled for a few seconds as Mason tried to get away from Kim, the prosecutor's statement says.

Once Kim was on the ground, Mason ran toward the door. He picked up a pack of cigarettes as he attempted to leave. Kim stood up, pulled his pistol from his waistband and fired at Mason, striking him twice in the back, according to the prosecutor.

Mason collapsed in the doorway. Kim then picked up the stolen cigarettes and called 911.

Kim's wife was working as a clerk in the same store in February when it was robbed by a different person. The robber displayed a gun and the two fired at each other. She was shot in the stomach but is expected to recover.

Records show that Friday's incident was the third time in just as many months that thieves have targeted the store.

Mason made headlines in 2014 when a he was accused of trying to kidnap a 6-year-old Parkland girl. In that case, the girl was walking home when she said two men "came out of nowhere and tried to grab her."

The little girl fought the men off and was able to get away, and police soon arrested Mason in connection to the crime. Court records show he was convicted of unlawful imprisonment and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

In an interview with KOMO News, Kim said the shooting of Mason was in self-defense.

Kim says the confrontation unfolded when Mason, who had been shoplifting and harassing customers, went to the cash register. Kim says he pulled out his 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, Kim said.

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, Troyer said earlier.

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