SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The owner of a liquor store in East San Jose was killed during an attempted robbery late Monday night, according to the victim’s family.

Hao Ly told KPIX 5 that his brother Hieu Ly, who owned Jim’s Liquor Mart near Quimby Road and White Road, was killed in the shooting. Ly said his brother and sister-in-law were working at the store Monday night.

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According to Ly, the owner’s wife was working the register when the robber demanded money. The owner, who was resting behind the counter, overheard what was happening and attempted to intervene before he was shot in the chest.

Ly said the robber threatened to kill the owner’s wife when she tried to call 911. The robber left the store after he was unable to open the cash register.

Hieu Ly died at the scene. His wife was not physically hurt in the incident.

As news of Hieu’s death got out Tuesday, a steady stream of customers brought flowers, candles, and cards to pay their respects. They told stories of a kind, hard-working man.

“You know, you come here and see these people work hard to take care of their families and then something so senseless…” said longtime customer Maria Jimenez. “It’s just…for what? For money?!”

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15-year-old customer Marcos Cruz remembers one time when he got to the register and didn’t have enough money.

“He was always nice,” said Cruz. “If you were low on change, ‘Next time, buddy. Come on.’ And it’s sad, I don’t know how to take it.”

Binh Cao, who owns the business next door, said Hieu fixed her electrical wiring, air conditioning and did other handyman work.

But Hieu also had a tough side. As a warning to shoplifting suspects, he hung their surveillance photos on the front door.

Les Davis called him ‘Pops’ because Hieu reminded him of his father.

“I know the kind of person he is, and I know he wouldn’t give it up. He’s a very strong-minded man,” said Davis. “Littlest thing in the world, but he is tough as nails. Not gonna back down at all. And when I heard that he’s not gonna open the register, I said, ‘Yep, that’s Pops.'”

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The gunman remains on the loose. San Jose police have yet to release a suspect description. The shooting is under investigation.