South Sound News

Spanaway convenience store owner sentenced for killing shoplifter

Members of Min Kim's family were overcome with emotion as he was taken away in handcuffs to serve more than eight years in prison for second degree murder. His father in-law reached out to touch his face as he walked by in handcuffs, while a woman beat her chest and wept loudly, collapsing to the ground in grief.

The 31-year-old Kim pleaded guilty earlier this year to shooting and killing Jakeel Mason after he caught Mason shoplifting at the Spanaway convenience store he owned with his family in March 2016.

Prosecutors said Kim pulled a gun on Mason after he spotted him stealing items, then put it away when Mason put up his hands and backed away.


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Then Kim started fighting with the victim.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, when Mason broke free and ran toward the door,

Kim shot him twice in the back, killing him.

Kim told Pierce County Superior Court Judge John Hickman he was sorry for the murder and accepted responsibility.

“I did not have the right to take Mr. Mason’s life, or anyone else’s life,” Kim said as he stood before Hickman. “I feel terrible that I did so, and will have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

The shooting came a little more than a month after Kim's wife, Seul Lim, was shot and wounded during a shootout with a robber at the store. She suffered only minor injuries.

Lim told the court that shooting took a toll on her husband.

“I was shot by a robber and after that my husband struggled in fear,” Lim said.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of a little more than 10 years, while Kim's attorney asked the court for a sentence of just two years, saying he was still distraught because of his wife’s shooting at the time of Mason’s death.

Hickman decided on eight years and four months, saying despite Kim's anger over what happened to his wife, he had no right to kill an unarmed shoplifter.

“The use of deadly force, when your own safety is not threatened, does not justify shooting someone in the back,” Hickman said.