New York City Chef Killed Over iPhone

Hwangbum Yang of the Bronx was killed by a gunman who stole his iPhone

April 20, 2012— -- Hwangbum Yang, a 26-year-old chef at a posh Manhattan restaurant, was doing what he did every night: returning home after the dinner shift to his family's home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

But around midnight on Wednesday, an unidentified man shot and killed Yang, allegedly so he could steal his iPhone, according to police sources and reporting from The New York Post.

Yang, who aspired to become a famous chef so he could return to his native Korea and make it big, was just a few blocks away from the apartment he shared with his family, on Johnson Street in Riverdale, according to the Riverdale Press.

Normally, Yang would arrive in Riverdale by midnight and call his father to come pick him up at the subway stop, said Yang's cousin, Peter Han, but the family worried when he hadn't arrived by 12:30 a.m. "Today he just decided to walk home," Han told The Wall Street Journal. "Maybe he just didn't want his dad driving in the rain."

Witnesses said they heard a single shot fired around 12:30 a.m. Thursday on Cambridge Avenue, near West 232nd Street. A witness spotted a man kicking at Yang's body, which was on the ground, and rifling through Yang's pockets, according to the Riverdale Press. The man then "made his getaway in a waiting silver minivan," according to the Post.

Why would anyone want to kill Yang, a well-liked young man and church volunteer? Family members say it could be because of Yang's iPhone.

He'd bought the iPhone, his first, in October, and could often be seen wearing his earbud headphones, his family said. He was still wearing them when emergency workers arrived yesterday, but the attached phone was nowhere to be found, according to the Post, leading Yang's family to think he was targeted for the device. The money in Yang's wallet remained untouched.

After an ambulance arrived at the scene, emergency workers found Yang unconcious and unresponsive, with a gunshot wound to his chest. He was rushed in an ambulance to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. The police investigation is ongoing, according to police sources.

Prior to his death, Yang had been working at The Modern for three months, a well-regarded restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, owned by eponymous chef Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. Yang was what is called a garde manager, managing the amuse bouche and cold food dishes, a USHG spokesman told the Post.

"While we don't know all the details, our entire restaurant family is devastated by the tragic news regarding Hwangbum Yang. Right now, our thoughts are with the Yang family," said Jee Won Park, a spokesman for Union Square Hospitality Group.

The entire family had just been awarded with green cards earlier this year, meaning they could legally reside and work in the U.S. indefinitely.

Yang also volunteered at St. John Nam church on White Plains Road in the Bronx, where his friends will host a Friday night gathering to mourn him, Father Simon Nam told Nam said of Yang, a former altar boy, "He was very, very nice, and had a beautiful life. All the people are very upset."

Yang's parents called him after the death, Nam said, but couldn't even utter the words to explain what happened. "They were only crying," Nam said. "I pray for him."

A woman who answered multiple phone calls to Yang's family's home told that she did not speak English and hung up the phone each time.

Yang's funeral will take place in the Bronx on Monday.

Bronx Borough President Diaz said in a statement, "My heart goes out to Hwang Yang's family as we keep them in our prayers. It is extremely disappointing to see such senseless, cowardly acts being committed in our borough."

He added, "I urge all Bronxites with knowledge of illegal guns in their community to call 866-GUN-STOP to anonymously report those guns to the police."

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