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An armed robbery at Min Grocery in 1995 ended in murder. Investigators still hope for justice

Two men entered Min Grocery in 1995 and shot 56-year-old owner Joung Nam Kim. The case is still open.

TACOMA, Wash. — Twenty-seven years after the death of a beloved Tacoma store owner, the investigator who worked the case is still hopeful there will be justice.

“It was one of those scenes you don’t forget because there’s wailing involved,” said Mark Mann, a retired sergeant from the Tacoma Police Department.

Mann was one of the first officers on the scene at the Min Grocery store on Jan. 18, 1995. The call came in as an armed robber in Tacoma’s Portland Avenue Corridor, though soon after it was discovered that the store’s owner Joung Nam Kim, a 56-year-old Korean immigrant, was shot and killed.

“The store has been ransacked, the cash register and stuff like that, it appears that it has been a robbery that went bad,” a public information officer for the Tacoma Police Department told a KING 5 crew on scene in 1995.

Credit: KING 5
Photo of KING 5 coverage of the Min Grocery murder in 1995.

Mann said his goal when he was at the scene 27 years ago was to preserve all the evidence possible. He remembered the cash drawer open, a man on the ground and many people surrounding him trying to help.

“You never forget it, it’s just reverberating out of the store into the alley and it’s just a sound that you never, never forget because that’s the sound of guttural human pain,” he continued.

Mann, now retired, was part of a newly-formed street crimes unit at the time of the murder.

“When you know your community, they always say you are more connected with your community and that was the case with Min Grocery,” he said.

In 1995, Mann was in his thirties and he was confident Kim’s killers would be caught – but the young officer's confidence met reality when the witnesses went quiet. Nobody wanted to talk to police.

“There are those who love the police and won’t talk to them and those who hate the police and won’t talk to them,” Mann said.

The Kim family was well-known in the neighborhood and the Min Grocery is still operating today, though it’s under new ownership. 

The family had several bouts with violent crime. In 1988, Min Kim, Joung Nam Kim’s son, shot and wounded a robber who held his mother at gunpoint.

“I cocked a gun and my mom pointed to the guy that was driving away and that’s when I fired,” Min Kim told KING 5 in 1988.

Credit: KING 5
Min Grocery in 1988

“I feel that I did the right thing. My mom was out there, and the guy had the gun out the window so she probably would have got hurt if I wasn’t out there,” he continued.

Store regulars, men and women that knew the Kim family in the 90s, who are still regulars on the block, will tell you not much has changed.

“Everybody’s getting murdered and not getting investigated these days. It’s like nobody cares no more,” said neighbor and store regular Alvina Dillon.

“It’s gotten worse – what goes on here stays here – but it’s gotten worse here,” added regular Stanley George.

King 5 made several attempts to contact the surviving members of the Kim family, though their silence makes it clear they want to close this chapter of their lives. 

For Mann, the case never closed. It stayed alive in his dreams and his nightmares.

“It’s just horrible to see a hard-working family make a business succeed and then have these street-level creatures take that all away from them. It’s the opposite of the so-called 'American dream,'” Mann said.

Missing person cases, murders and other mysteries are solvable. To submit a tip to the KING 5 Unsolved Northwest team, click here or fill out the form below.

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