Chinese Delivery Man Killed by Two Teenagers in NE Philly

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The tracks left by Rendong Zheng’s Toyota. According to the police, after the gunshot, Mr. Zheng drove out of Hill Creek Apartments, a Philadelphia Housing Authority project, dashing across Adams Avenue onto a grass-covered lot.

updated Monday, April 27 at 3 pm

It is the misfortune for Philadelphia: a 49-year-old food delivery worker was shot in a robbery, and the suspects are two teenagers.

The victim, Rendong Zheng, was found unconscious with a gunshot wound Thursday night in Northeast Philadelphia. He was pronounced dead at hospital shortly after.

Mr. Zheng worked for New China Restaurant on Rising Sun Avenue, which closed its door the day after he died. According to the Police Department, at 10:37 pm, the police received a report of gunfire around Hill Creek Apartments in Crescentville, but the officers did not find anything at the scene. Meanwhile, a fire crew found Mr. Zheng’s car crashed through a fence of a vacant property at 500 Adams Avenue, right across the street from Hill Creek Apartments. Inside the car, the unconscious victim was suffering from a gunshot wound in his left shoulder. He was sent to Einstein Hospital and was pronounced dead at 11 pm.

The Homicide Unit later identified two suspects, Sahmir Walker, 14, and Taquail Duffy, 15. Both suspects were living in Hill Creek Apartments, where the police believe Mr. Zheng was shot. Walker was held without bail for murder, robbery, criminal conspiracy and other crimes. Duffy, held on a $250,000 bail, was charged with aggravated assault, intimidation, terroristic threats, violation of Uniform Firearms Act and other crimes.

The police believe the suspects intended to rob Mr. Zheng. Twelve shots were fired; one hit the victim, who tried to drive away from the horror but soon lost control of his car.

In the neighborhood where Mr. Zheng worked, people are not surprised by the incident. A neighboring pharmacist, who does not wish to share her name, told Metro Chinese Weekly that the area is bad at night.

“This is not the safest area in the city,” she said. “I guess during the day it is OK. But the area is really, really bad at night. People shouldn’t deliver food at such late time.”

The car-crashing site neighbors Rising Sun Plaza, a go-to place for Chinese grocery shoppers. Despite the hustle and bustle during the day, the streets on this area are known to have trouble at night.

“It happens,” a man who works at a pizza restaurant next to Mr. Zheng’s restaurant said. “But we are OK. It doesn’t matter to us.”

On WeChat, the popular social networking and messaging app among Chinese in Philadelphia, the discussion has been intense. Some shared their horrible moments of delivering food where the cutthroats lurking in the dark. Others are calling for actions against the rampant violent crimes in the city. In the past, the city implemented measures such as limiting business operating hours to keep people off the street at night, but some restaurant owners found the measure unpleasant because it crippled their businesses.

At this point, the Chinese community is looking at the next mayor for better solutions.

In an email response to Metro Chinese Weekly, mayoral candidate Doug Oliver reiterates the importance of providing city services in the language that the immigrants speak.

“We could have the best deterrent programs in the world, but if our immigrant population doesn’t know what’s available to them, it’s of little value,” he wrote.

Oliver promises to “invest heavily” in training police officers to better understand the cultural differences among Philadelphians.

Other mayoral candidates, such as Jim Kenney and Anthony H. Williams, have recently released their plans to improve the public safety. More details will be shared in this post.

Terry Tracy, Republican candidate for City Council, felt that the Council race has not been paying enough attention to public safety.

“I have been to so many forums since the campaign, but the candidates haven’t talked too much about public safety, which is an important matter and should be the basic thing in this race,” he said.

On his view of whether businesses should or should not operate at late hours, Tracy thought the best solution is to help businesses earn enough revenue so that they do not have to strife at dangerous hours.

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What Do Chinese Corner Store Owners Say about Philly’s Cigarette Tax Hike?

Two months ago, the City of Philadelphia began levying a two-dollar-per-pack cigarette tax to fund the public schools. This measure turns out to be quite painful to some Chinese restaurant owners.

by Bole Yuan and Haojun Liu

In some areas of Philadelphia, the only businesses standing might as well be the Chinese takeout restaurants, or Chinese corner stores. In addition to quick meals, snackages and soft drinks, most of them sell cigarettes to diversify their revenue. We randomly picked 45 stores and asked them if they felt any impact since the cigarette tax increase was implemented. Eight of them, all from different zip codes, agreed to share their views.

Please note that all of them spoke on the condition of anonymity. We then refer them with their neighborhoods.

To begin with, most Chinese corner stores now sell a pack of Newport for $9. It was $7 before.

We asked: Is there any change to the sale of cigarette since the tax increased?

“A bit of decline, but it’s OK. Some customers say they would purchase cigarettes elsewhere.” – Owner of A Restaurant in Kingsessing/West Philladelphia

A restaurant owner in North Philly said she probably saw seven or eight cartons less in monthly sale, while the gross revenue of his restaurant was down for over a thousand dollars. “Customer who used to buy cigarettes here also bought other things, like sodas,” she said. “Now they don’t buy anything.”

Another North Philly restaurant owner said he used to sell five to six packs per day “when it’s cheaper.”

“Now we can only sell two or three packs per day,” he said. “Some people would cursed at the price and claimed that gas stations have cheaper cigarettes. Since there are many competitors around here, many customers will go to those owned by the Americans. We can only make a little money after everybody else has closed for the day; otherwise, we can never survive.”

“In a shop like this, we have been suffering from sleep deprivation already,” he added.

Another women who owns a restaurant in Kensington said the cigarette price is too expensive for her customer. “We can only count on selling more food,” she said.

“No one wants it.” – Owner of a restaurant in Tioga.

This restaurant owner has a lot to say about his experience selling cigarettes.

“It was quite an impact, though the sale has been dismal all along,” he said of the recent tax increase. In addition, he claimed that the police failed to stop people from selling loose cigarettes, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

“Our business is not allowed to sell loose cigarettes; we have to sell pack by pack, not the single ones,” he said. “The police did nothing to stop them. If the government allows us to sell loose cigarettes, we can have more revenue and therefore pay more tax.”

Loose cigarette is indeed a sensitive topic right now: if the authorities in New York City had allowed people to sell loose cigarettes, Eric Garner might not die. However, we are not going to speculate the rationale behind the law. What we want to know is whether this restaurant owner’s claim about the leniency in loose cigarette control is addressed, and whether the cigarette tax increase has anything to do with it.

We contacted the Police Department, the department of Licenses and Inspections and the Mayor’s Office. Mayor’s Press Secretary Mark McDonald told us that neither the police or the L&I have the answer for us. The enforcement of the law is conducted by the state’s Department of Revenue. So far we are still waiting for them to respond. (And, yes, we have to say: To be continued.)