Shopkeeper Killed By Plague He Helped Fight: Crime

About 4 p.m. Tuesday, Tecle Ghebremichale shook the hand of a deputy prosecutor for helping convict the 16-year-old youth who burst into Ghebremichale's store and shot him in January.

Then the shopkeeper of the High Point Market at 3401 S.W. Graham St. went off to work, as he did almost every night. Four hours later, he was dead.

Ghebremichale was shot again in the torso, from the market's doorway. One of his business partners, shot in the ankle as he ducked behind the counter, had been standing beside him.

No one has been arrested in the latest shooting, but acquaintances and family members of the victim believe the motive was revenge.

The store's three owners all came to the United States from the northern Ethiopian province of Eritrea. They bought the market in February 1990.

Ghebremichale, 44, had lived in Seattle 11 years. He is survived by a wife and three children, a friend said. Police refused to release the name of the 40-year-old partner shot Tuesday, who was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center.

Residents of the High Point neighborhood say gang members resented the shop owners not just for testifying in the first shooting case, but for cooperating with police to crack down on drug dealing around the store.

Neighbors said the owners also were resented for being "foreigners" doing well in a neighborhood that wasn't.

Nothing was taken from the market in either shooting.

"Not many people try to deal with all the stuff that goes on around here," said one neighbor, Claudia Welcher. "These people did try, and I think that's why one lost his life."

The 16-year-old in the Jan. 5 shooting, who has a history of violent offenses, was in the King County Youth Services Center during the Tuesday-night attack. He is to be sentenced June 3 in Juvenile Court, and faces a sentence of four to nearly five years on two counts of first-degree assault.

Prosecutors say shortly before the January shooting, the youth threatened Ghebremichale and co-owner Dagnew Amdemichael by making shooting gestures and saying, "Tonight, boom-boom."

Less than 15 minutes later, the youth banged on the door and shot both men in the abdomen with a handgun, the store owners testified.

King County Deputy Prosecutor Howard Schneiderman said the victims could have died from their wounds had they not been rushed to the hospital. As they recovered, Amdemichael and Ghebremichale picked the youth out of a photo montage and agreed to testify against him.

Schneiderman, who prosecuted the first shooting case, said neither victim expressed any fear of testifying.

Family members say Amdemichael, 41, of Lynnwood, might have been shot again, too, had he not been at Harborview Tuesday night for scheduled surgery on the injury from the first shooting. "We feel very lucky," said his daughter.

Volunteers for the High Point branch of Neighborhood House called a community meeting last night to urge residents to band together rather than recoil in fear.

Schneiderman described Seattle's entire Ethiopian community as being in shock yesterday. He said he had been told many were not working, out of respect for Ghebremichale, and that community members were trying to arrange to fly Ghebremichale's body back to Eritrea for burial.

"He was pleased when I told him we won," recalled Schneiderman. "I thanked him; they thanked me . . . It was a nice moment. Then he was dead."