Woom Sing Tse was fatally shot Tuesday in Chinatown, a block from where he lived. | Family photo/provided
“This senseless murder — we can’t comprehend it. We don’t know why,” his son said.
Woom Sing Tse came to America nearly 50 years ago with a hundred dollars in his pocket and worked his way up from restaurant cook to restaurant owner.
He retired nine years ago and became a well-known figure in Chinatown, where he played ping pong and headed an association dedicated to the sport.
“He came here for a better life for his family and paved the way for his generation. You know, the immigrant dream to come to America,” his son William Tse said.
Tse, 71, was gunned down a block from his home Tuesday afternoon while walking to the store to buy a newspaper. “This senseless murder — we can’t comprehend it. We don’t know why,” William Tse said.
Woom Tse had just finished lunch at home with his wife, the son said. She had meant to make the trip but Tse said it was too cold outside and went to get the newspaper himself.
As he walked down the sidewalk in the 200 block of West 23rd Place, a silver car pulled up and the driver opened fire, police said. Surveillance video obtained by WGN-TV shows Tse falling and the driver stopping, getting out and walking up to the curb and firing again. Tse died at Stroger Hospital.
The driver sped off but was arrested on Jackson Boulevard near the Kennedy Expressway. Police said a gun was recovered but haven’t commented on a possible motive. Charges have not been announced.
The shooting happened across the street from Haines Elementary School, where Tse’s daughter was teaching, his son said.
‘Epitome’ of the American Dream
After arriving in this country from China, Tse worked and saved and finally owned his own restaurant, first in Dundee in the northwest suburbs, his son said. He sold that location after 20 years and started another in Downers Grove.
He put his three children through school, had nine grandchildren and retired nine years ago. “My dad was the epitome of the immigrant coming to America and taking chances,” William Tse said.
Woom Sing Tse and family
After retiring, Tse settled into life in Chinatown where he was known as a “superior” ping pong player, his son said. He also played basketball and exercised every morning, his cousin Winnie Tse said.
“He was a good man,” said Winnie Tse, 61, who lived next door to him in Chinatown since 1986. “He took care of his family, made money and took care of the three kids. He was a good husband and father.”
William Tse said his father raised him with “tough love” that helped him grow into the successful entrepreneur he is now.
“I know his heart and attention were all right there. Especially in Chinese culture, that’s how it is. It’s this stoic mentality: tough love, you have to suffer before you succeed in life. You take the long road. Nothing is handed to you,” William Tse said.
With his dad gone, William Tse said he’s worried about his mother. “I don’t think she can walk in Chinatown anymore,” he said.
The murder has left Chinatown residents shaken and afraid to go outside, Winnie Tse said.
“Everyone wants to know why because we’ve heard lots of rumors,” Winnie Tse said. “People are scared to walk around Chinatown, but you have to live your life.”
Seven other shootings have occurred this year in the police beat that covers Chinatown and parts of Bridgeport, according to Chicago Police Department data. Two of this year’s shootings happened during robberies. The beat had the same number of shootings in all of 2020.
Tse’s death is the first murder recorded in the beat this year, according to the city data. Last year, the police beat saw five fatal shootings, the most in any year since 1991. The beat had no fatal shootings in the years between 2015 and 2019.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward covers Chinatown, said he was working with Chinatown community leaders to organize a meeting to discuss public safety in the area.
“Not only is a family grieving the tragic loss of their loved one, but an entire community and nearby school filled with children are impacted by what happened yesterday,” Sigcho-Lopez said in a statement. “It’s going to take all of us together to get past this cycle of violence ravaging our city and we have no time to waste and no more lives to lose.”
Data analysis by Andy Boyle