Mountains drew hotel shooting victim to Alaska

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Sang In Chun was used to getting up in the early morning hours, well before anyone else, and passing the time before the first service at his Korean church by walking from his Government Hill home to downtown to wait for a bus at the transit center.

On those occasions when he would wake up too early and be way ahead of the bus, he would go to the hotel across from the transit center to read its newspapers and watch television until the 5:45 a.m. bus arrived.

On Monday morning, that pattern put the 76-year-old in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the hotel lobby that had become his second living room, a robber who had entered the hotel lobby and demanded money turned on him and shot him to death.

Police say the robber also shot the hotel desk clerk during the robbery. That man, 42-year-old Monte Howell, was hospitalized briefly but was back at work Tuesday afternoon.

Police spokeswoman Anita Shell said Tuesday the clerk gave over the money without a fight, and it wasn't known why the robber started shooting.

"My understanding is the clerk was compliant, so he was probably trying to eliminate the witnesses," Shell said. "There was no reason for him to shoot the clerk."

Investigators have not yet named a suspect, though detectives were out knocking on doors and following up on leads Tuesday, homicide Detective Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz said.

Chun's 18-year-old nephew, Tae Yung Jun, said his uncle had a great deal of affection for Alaska. Chun moved here about five years ago, because he loved to hike and he loved the mountains. He left New York, where he had lived for nearly 20 years, his five adult children, his moving company and his fruit and vegetable store, to live in Anchorage and have the Alaska views, Jun said.

When the septuagenarian would return to New York, he would present slide shows to groups of Koreans, showing them the beauty of where he lives. "He wanted other people from other states to visit here," his nephew said.

About three years ago, Chun was concerned about his nephew, who then lived in Korea, and brought him over to live with him, to get an American education, the nephew said. Jun graduated from West High School last year and is a freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The two lived alone, with the older man like a father or grandfather to the teen.

Jun isn't sure what to do now, but his uncle's adult children, all still in New York, have volunteered to help him pay for rent and school, he said.

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