SK mourns slain shop owner

South Kitsap residents were reeling on Thursday after the owner of a popular convenience store was shot and killed in the parking lot of his market on Mile Hill Drive.

Alan Kono, 48, who owned and operated P.J.’s Market at the corner of Mile Hill Drive and Woods Road for nearly 20 years, was shot in plain view of customers and passersby shortly before 1:30 p.m., and at least one witness chased the suspect in his car after he fired at Kono.

The alleged shooter, a 44-year-old man whom witnesses said was a regular customer, was apprehended minutes later by Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies at his nearby residence. He was scheduled to make his first appearance in Kitsap County Superior Court yesterday.

Kono was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson said Thursday his office had no idea why the suspect shot Kono, who was very popular with residents, many of whom said they shopped at his store as much for the friendly man behind the counter as for the merchandise.

Hours after the shooting, crowds still lingered across the street to watch officers investigate the scene, the store’s neon “Open” sign still lit although yellow caution tape prevented entry.

After the investigators cleared the scene, mourners gathered outside the store to remember Kono, often leaving flowers and candles underneath the colorful petunias he hung outside.

Karen Rude, a longtime South Kitsap resident, said Kono’’s death was a loss for the entire community.

“It shouldn’t have happened to Al; he was such an inspiration,” Rude said. “Running a small shop all by himself, and he was so friendly and just a super guy.”

Rude said although she didn't live that close to the store, she and her husband Don went out of their way to shop there and support the “mom-and-pop shop.”

“We would go there just because it was Al,” she said, explaining that even her younger brother, who lives in California, makes a point of stopping into P.J.’s every time he visits. “He was just so happy with Al’s and his service.”

Rude said even people who never went inside the store loved it.

“He always had those beautiful flowers,” Rude said, referring to the baskets hanging off the roof and lining the porch. “I loved to drive by them.”

South Kitsap resident Chris Hitchings, who lives on Woods Road and shops at the small market “all the time,” said he drove by the scene shortly after it happened.

“It was kind of scary,” Hitchings said, describing seeing a man on a stretcher with “bloody rags everywhere” and law enforcement surrounding the place. He said he could tell it had been a shooting, and was shocked that such an incident occurred there.

Kono was married with two teen-aged children.

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