LAPD investigates Koreatown assault on Air Force veteran Denny Kim as possible hate crime

California legislators also cleared $1.4 million to track anti-Asian crimes

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is investigating whether a recent assault on a 27-year-old Air Force veteran in Koreatown qualifies as a hate crime, as detectives seek surveillance video in an attempt to identify potential suspects, Fox News has learned.

Denny Kim, a Korean-American who grew up in Los Angeles, described in a recent on-camera interview with KNBC how he was knocked down and berated with racial slurs in Koreatown on Feb. 16. 

"I was terrified for my life," Kim recalled, still showing signs of a black eye about a week after the assault. "They started calling me ‘ching-chong,’ ‘g---,’ ‘Chinese virus,’ just all sorts of nasty stuff. They eventually struck me on my face and I fell down to the ground."

A spokesman with the LAPD confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that detectives are investigating the assault on Kim as a possible hate crime, and "as customary" with any investigation, they are looking to interview witnesses and pull any surveillance video that might have captured the incident. He could not say whether police would release video in the future, as the investigation is ongoing. 

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Kim told the news station that his friend and community activist, Joseph Cha, chased off the attackers, saving his life.

"I was screaming and telling them to stop," Cha said. "I was screaming at them and they were calling me racial slurs, too, calling me a ‘ch---.’

"What they did was not fair," Kim told KNBC. "Throughout my career, I experienced a lot of micro-aggressions because of my race. I never felt like I fit in. I never felt like I belonged."

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Kim is one of more than 245 Asian American and Pacific Islander American (AAPI) individuals who were harassed, assaulted or discriminated against in Los Angeles County recently, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago -- who represents the district that includes Koreatown and Little Tokyo -- said in a statement Wednesday, adding, "enough is enough and we cannot be bystanders."

"The attack that Denny Kim endured in Koreatown where he was beaten and mocked with racial slurs in unequivocally a hate crime," Santiago said. "This is part of a larger fight against racism right here in our backyards. We got rid of Trump but we did not get rid of the racist sentiment across our country."

California legislators recently designated $1.4 million to help research and analyze hate incidents experienced by Asian Pacific Islander communities. The provision included in a State Assembly bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday designates funding for the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California Los Angeles and supports the Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate website.

There have been at least 2,800 incident reports of hate crime from 47 states and Washington, D.C., since March 2020, Stop AAPI Hate -- which is tracking ant-Asian crime in the U.S. -- said in a report published in December. 

Koreatown located in the center of Los Angeles populated by 120,000 residents in a 2.7 mile area. The area is ethnically diverse with two-thirds of the areas residents being born outside the US. It is also the fastest growing area of the city with new banks, restaurants, and housing sprouting up. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

Koreatown located in the center of Los Angeles populated by 120,000 residents in a 2.7 mile area. The area is ethnically diverse with two-thirds of the areas residents being born outside the US. It is also the fastest growing area of the city with new banks, restaurants, and housing sprouting up. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

Several assaults against elderly Asians have been captured on camera and went viral earlier this year. Notably, an 84-year-old man from Thailand was shoved to the ground from behind during his morning walk in a San Francisco neighborhood. He died at the hospital two days later. Another video showed a 91-year-old man who was injured after he was violently knocked to the ground in a seemingly unprovoked attack in Oakland’s Chinatown.

Activists, joined by actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu, are holding press conferences and virtual events calling attention to what they describe as patterns of abuse related to blame placed on the Asian American community for the coronavirus pandemic.

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The California bill funding also will support the COVID-19 Multilingual Resources website, policy research projects on COVID-19-related challenges directly impacting Asian Pacific Islander communities, and may be distributed to the Asian American Studies Department at California State University, San Francisco and other entities involved in the Stop Anti-Asian Hate collaborative.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the "China virus" after the outbreak in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province swiftly swept across the globe. Six days after taking office, President Biden issued a memo condemning "inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric" that has put AAPI persons, families, communities and businesses at risk during the pandemic.