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Southwest Philadelphia deli holdup leaves a robber dead

The store's owner, who had been held up before, traded shots with two men. Police were uncertain about charges.

By Robert Moran

November 17, 2000

A Southwest Philadelphia store owner who had been held up once too often responded with force yesterday to yet another robbery attempt, killing one of two robbers during a fierce gun battle inside his market.

After being robbed earlier this year, Hop Bui, the owner of Jim's Deli at 61st Street and Harley Avenue, bought a video surveillance system and a pistol, customers said. He practiced at a shooting range.

His preparation was put to the test shortly after 4:30 yesterday afternoon, according to police, when two young men tried to rob his store.

A gun battle ensued. When the shooting stopped, one of the assailants lay dead in the back of the store with a bullet wound to his head. The other robber ran out of the store.

Bui was unhurt.

Bui, 22, who police said lives outside the city, was questioned by homicide detectives last night and released. Police said a decision whether to charge him would be up to the District Attorney's Office.

It was unclear whether he would face any charges, but an officer at the scene expressed this sentiment when a passerby asked what had happened: The officer said it was "a robbery that went good for the owner."

Police said that two men entered the deli and attempted a robbery and that a gunfight followed. Police said Bui, who was licensed to carry a firearm, fired three or four times.

The dead man was described only as being in his teens or early 20s. He was declared dead at the scene.

Last night, Bui's light-colored Toyota Camry was still parked on the sidewalk outside the store as detectives surveyed the scene. Lollipops were scattered on the floor near the front counter.

Rich Mitchell, 40, a nearby resident and regular customer, said Bui had been robbed twice before.

"After the first two robberies, he got surveillance cameras, he got a pistol, and practiced at a shooting range," Mitchell said, adding that Bui bought the store several years ago from an owner who was tired of getting robbed.

"He's a nice guy, and it's a shame it had to come to this," said Kitty Fanelli, 47, another customer.

Fanelli said Bui, known to his customers as "Jimmy," recently bought a house and is generous with his friends.

"He'll do anything for you," she said. "You don't have the money, he'll cover for you."

Robert Moran's e-mail address is

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