The competition among merchants for tourist dollars on San Francisco's waterfront can be fierce. On Sunday night, it turned deadly.
A double homicide at Fisherman’s Wharf was the result of an ongoing rivalry between merchants, according to police and shopkeepers in the area.
Police said 56-year-old merchant Hong Ri Wu walked into his next-door rival’s shop at 269 Jefferson St. and shot and killed Qiong Han Chu, 30, and Feng Ping Ou, 30.
The victims, both San Francisco residents, were pronounced dead at the scene.
“It’s a dispute between merchants regarding the selling of similar items,” police spokesman Sgt. Troy Dangerfield said.
Another vendor in the area said the suspect and victims argued daily. The rivaling merchants sold similar knockoff scarves and purses, the vendor said. Wu was apparently angry that the victims set up shop in front of their store in a way that blocked the view from the sidewalk of his shop.
“They were arguing every morning, saying, ‘You block my view,’ stuff like that,” said Carmen, a merchant who works at a store just around the corner from the crime scene.
Carmen declined to provide her last name.
Wu was booked into San Francisco County Jail on Monday morning on two counts of murder, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Shots rang out around 8:20 p.m. on Sunday, while the sidewalks were packed with shoppers and tourists, police said.
Maurice Tsuts, who works at a camera shop about half a block away at Jefferson and Jones streets, said he heard the gunshots but thought it was children throwing poppers on the ground.
He said there is often tension between business owners in the neighborhood because so many Fisherman’s Wharf stores sell similar goods.
“There’s stiff competition around here,” he said.
Still, many shopkeepers were shocked that such competition could lead to a killing.
The suspected shooter was described by some in the area as a kind, quiet and humble man.
Benjamin Bouskila, the owner of Firenze Fine Arts at 235 Jefferson St., said he walked past Ri Wu almost every day and could never imagine he’d have the capacity to kill.
“He’s not the kind of person you would expect to take an action like that,” Bouskila said.
The victims were also described as “very nice” people. Frank Faiz, who works for Bouskila, said Chu “always had a smile on his face.”
“Every time you’d see him in the morning, he waves and says ‘good morning,’” Faiz said.
On Monday morning, people had created a memorial at the scene of the crime, leaving flowers and incense.
Bay City News contributed to this report.