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Brooklyn man arrested in Flushing brick attack

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The police arrested a 20-year-old Brooklyn man Saturday in connection with the death of a Korean-American restaurant worker, who was fatally beaten with a paving stone in the lobby of his Flushing apartment nearly eight months ago.

The suspect, Shamell Solomon of Brooklyn, was arraigned in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens on second-degree murder charges, said Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney. He pleaded not guilty before Justice Doris Chin-Brandt and was being held without bail.

The police said they were searching for a second suspect in the murder of Jim Rong Lee, a 46-year-old immigrant from Korea, who was returning to his Flushing apartment at 35-07 147th St., when he was attacked with a 10-pound paving stone in the lobby of his building.

Initially, the police investigated whether the murder was part of a gang-initiation rite, a theory based on a graffiti tag of an El Salvadorian gang that was scrawled on the outside wall of his apartment building. The murder scraped a nerve not only among Asian Americans but among all Queens residents, three weeks after a Chinese restaurant owner was killed with a bag of bricks in southeast Queens.

The arrest Saturday came nearly eight months after Lee, who supported his wife and four children by working at a Korean restaurant in Manhattan, was murdered. On Sept. 23, shortly after 1 a.m., Lee was returning late from work as usual, walking down 147th Street to his apartment building at the end of the block.

As he opened the first of two doors, two men wearing doo rags were only steps behind him, one holding aloft a 10-pound paving stone, the authorities said.

The superintendent discovered Lee lying in the lobby and went to his apartment to tell his wife, Moung Sun, what had happened. With only $1.50 and a MetroCard in his pocket, Lee was taken to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, where he died three days later of brain injuries.

The police were able to obtain a decent sketch of the two suspects since part of the attack was recorded by a video camera in the lobby of the apartment. On Saturday afternoon, a “Wanted For Homicide” flier was still scotch-taped to the front door of the apartment building, offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

“She feels better,” said Sung Sin Lee about her mother in an interview Tuesday. “My mom realized the police made progress and was glad to find out about the arrest. She wants the police to catch the second guy.”

The threat of eviction had hung over the Lees ever since Jim Rong Lee, the sole provider of the family, had died. In the last eight months, Jim Rong Lee’s four children have had to take on a variety of jobs to support their mother, who has diabetes, and to pay for living expenses. Their landlord had unsuccessfully taken the Lees to court to evict them since he had not received rent payments after Jim Rong had died.

Sung Sin, 17, who will graduate from Flushing High School this summer and will begin Barnard College in Manhattan this fall, said she has received scholarships to help pay for her tuition. She also said her family will move out in the next few weeks to another location in Queens.

Three weeks before Lee’s death, the owner of a Chinese restaurant was fatally beaten with a bag of bricks in Springfield Gardens while delivering an order. Five teenagers were arrested, accused of murdering him to obtain food without paying for it.

Earlier this month, a 23-year-old man was convicted in the 1998 fatal stabbing of the owner of a Chinese restaurant in Hollis. The victim, a 44-year-old father from Queens Village, was delivering an order to an apartment in Hollis when he was stabbed twice in the chest and robbed.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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