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Assault on Air Force veteran in LA’s Koreatown investigated as possible hate crime

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Los Angeles police are looking into a reported assault on an Air Force veteran in the city’s Koreatown earlier this month as a possible hate crime.

Denny Kim, 27, told local NBC affiliate KNBC this week that the incident occurred Feb. 16 when he was in Koreatown with a friend.

Kim said that two unidentified men approached and threatened to kill him before pushing him down to the ground and yelling racial slurs like “ching chong” and “Chinese virus,” KNBC reported.

Kim said his friend, Joseph Cha, then started yelling at the attackers, eventually chasing off the men.

“I was screaming, telling them to stop. Screaming, they were calling me racial slurs too,” Cha told the local news outlet.

Kim received a black eye and fractured nose during the assault, telling KNBC, “I was terrified for my life, as you can see the physical injuries on my face.”

“And I didn’t know what to think of it,” he added. “It was all just a blur… I was just trying to defend my life.”

Local police said that while the current description of the men is too vague to allow for an accurate search, detectives are looking through security footage from the area as part of a hate crime investigation. 

Kim, a Los Angeles native, said that while he is still shaken up by the incident it was not the first time he has experienced racism in the U.S.

“Throughout my career, I experienced a lot of microaggressions because of my race,” the Air Force veteran explained. “I never felt like I fit in. I never felt like I belonged.”

California State Assembly member Miguel Santiago (D), who represents Los Angeles, responded to the incident in a Wednesday statement, writing that he was “outraged and my soul is in pain at hearing this news.” 

“This is part of the larger fight against racism right here in our backyards. We got rid of [former President] Trump but we did not get rid of the racist sentiment across our country,” Santiago said, adding that the Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate Reporting Center received more than 2,800 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in 2020.

Violence against Asian Americans has continued into 2021. In late January, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant, was walking in San Francisco when a man crossed the street and pushed him to the ground. The man’s head hit the ground and he later died. His family has called the incident a hate crime.

Another 91-year-old Asian American man was shoved to the ground in Oakland in late January, with police saying the perpetrator also pushed a 60-year-old man and 55-year-old woman. Police later arrested a suspect.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined Asian, Black and Hispanic leaders in Congress last week in denouncing the surge in hate crimes, blaming Trump and his allies for using anti-Asian rhetoric when discussing COVID-19. 

“Our diversity is our strengths, our unity is our power. And we have unity on this subject,” Pelosi said at the time.

Tags Asian American Asian American discrimination California coronavirus covid-19 Hate crime Los Angeles Nancy Pelosi NBC Pacific Islanders police investigation

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