Vietnamese Man in St. Louis Murdered for Being Asian

May 14, 2011 at 5:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

St. Louis, MO

In responding to the recent murder of an elderly Vietnamese man in St. Louis, Missouri, the national JACL pointed out the possibility that the victim may have been targeted because of his race.

On April 18, Hoang Nguyen and his wife were approached by four individuals, when, according to court documents, it is alleged that Elex Levell Murphy punched Mr.  Nguyen in the head, causing him to fall and strike his head on the pavement, when a second male suspect began kicking Mr. Nguyen in the body, fracturing his ribs.  Court documents further state that Murphy then hit Mrs. Nguyen in the eye, fracturing her socket.  Murphy was charged with murder and the remaining suspects remain at large.  Murphy characterized the incident as a “Knock Out” game, which involves unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders.

In a letter to Daniel Isom, the St. Louis police chief, JACL Midwest Director Bill Yoshino raised the concern that the Nguyens may have been singled out because of their race or national origin where hate crime charges would also apply.  Yoshino said, “Oftentimes, Asian Americans are seen as vulnerable because they are perceived in a stereotypic manner to be unaggressive and non-threatening.”  A request was made to broaden the investigation to include the racial motive.

On May 2, Isom responded that the department is taking the situation seriously and aggressively investigating every lead.  As to the hate motivation, Isom stated, “we are confident this was a random act of violence on an older couple walking alone in an alley where they were vulnerable” pointing out that similar incidents of this nature have taken place in other parts of the city and outlying areas.

As a result of this crime, Yoshino has also been in contact with Karen Aroesty from the St. Louis Anti-Defamation League who invited the St. Louis JACL to become a member of their U.S. Attorneys Hate Crimes Task Force.  Yoshino also had a phone conversation with Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St.  Louis NAACP to discuss concerns related to inter-group tensions arising from the incident.  Finally, Yoshino also spoke with Rita Valenciano with the Community Relations unit of the Department of Justice in Kansas City who wanted to meet with representatives of the Asian American community in St. Louis.

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