Winnipeg store owner charged in death of shoplifter
WINNIPEG - Kwang Soo Kim and Geraldine Beardy were from different worlds.
He was a Korean immigrant, running a corner store in Winnipeg's tough north end. She was a member of a remote reserve, who fell in with a rough crowd while in the city for medical treatment.
On Thursday, police announced they had charged Kim with killing Beardy over what friends say was a stolen can of luncheon meat.
Kim, 62, is accused of manslaughter for allegedly beating Beardy, 29, outside his store last September after she stole something. Police said she was hit in the upper body with a weapon and fled to a nearby home. She died from her injuries five days later in hospital.
"Nobody's worth dying over a can of Klik," said David Harper, a friend of the Beardy family and grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents northern reserves in the province.
It appears both Kim and Beardy were struggling to get by. She was a mother of two who had serious health issues that forced her to leave the Garden Hill First Nation, 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. He was trying to make ends meet by running a small, independent convenience store near the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre.
Beardy was in and out of hospital that summer and had started to hang out with some of Winnipeg's homeless, Harper said.
"She was with two homeless men and ... she took that can of Klik for those two people that she was with."
Behind the store counter, Kim was in an industry in which every theft can make a big difference to a very slim profit margin.
"The convenience store business is a penny business. Every customer that comes in leaves a few pennies for us in profit," David Bryans, Canadian Convenience Stores Association, said from Toronto. "We'd probably have to sell 20 chocolate bars to break even on the profit we would have made on a stolen one."
The association offers tips on how its members can deter shoplifting and doesn't recommend or condone physically confronting thieves. But small family-run stores are unlikely to have the time or money to invest in the best anti-theft measures, Bryans said.
"They don't have an infrastructure to help them be trained properly ... and that's usually what happens to these new Canadians that come in and open a convenience store, or any store."
Police originally said Kim would face a charge of aggravated assault, but they changed it to manslaughter after consulting Crown attorneys. Kim was released pending his next court appearance.
Police are still seeking a witness -- a female customer who is believed to have been in the store at the time.
Kim, who has not entered a plea, was holding up well, said his lawyer, Evan Roitenberg.
"I think he's doing as well as could be expected. Obviously, he was hoping he wasn't going to be charged and is not thrilled to be facing such a charge."