Not long after midnight on Oct 2nd, 2016 an Asian American & Pacific Islander owned donut shop was the scene of a crazy altercation that resulted in a massive police response. It is the only store that is open 24 hours for many miles, and is a local favorite community hang out. At the heart of the issue was an African American homeless man who wanted to eat a freshly made and hot donut.
He was a resident local homeless man, but did not have a reputation of being violent in our community. The homeless man asked for a hot donut that was freshly made. The AAPI grandmother behind the counter remorsefully told him that she did not have any ready yet, and then he went ballistic on her.
He started yelling at her and she became quite alarmed. She took out her phone and threatened to call the police. It was a tactic she had resorted to time and time again. Only this time the man tried to swipe her phone from her hand. She desperately jerked back behind the counter just in time and barely avoided his grasp. The homeless man was begging her not to call the police for fear of they not being fair to him.
It was an experience all too familiar to African Americans, the fear of being unfairly treated by police officers. Compound that with being a homeless person and his worries were understandable. This grandmother looked into his eyes and felt his sorrow and pain. She had her own sons and regularly served this community. It was not something she wanted to make trouble over. Also she was afraid of retribution or revenge.
Asian American & Pacific Islanders are often afraid of reporting crimes or even filing charges if the criminals are caught by the police. It leaves AAPIs as vulnerable targets and almost invites more violence and crime against our people.
When this person entered the donut store four young Caucasian males were also patronizing the establishment. They had become so alarmed by the scene of this altercation that they jumped from their table, and ran out of the store in a panic. They got in their car and called the police.
The Los Angeles Police Department dispatched a helicopter quickly, and before you knew it the area was swarming with police officers. The suspect at this point became agitated and was resisting arrest. They were cautious and carefully sealed off an entire major street. Why were they so cautious?
Recent Black Lives Matter protests and social media waves of police brutality videos have caused a dramatic political backlash. One issue or problem relates to police officers being afraid to be caught engaging in any physical confrontation with a suspect in a way that could be deemed as police brutality. An examination of the local area was first conducted searching for video cameras before the suspect was taken down.
An officer had to tackle him from behind and is now in great fear of losing his job. Any kind of physical confrontations are now scrupulously reviewed by LAPD because of the history of police brutality and lawsuits. This is especially true for people of color like Native Americans, African Americans or Latinos/Hispanics.
This incident illustrated the present quagmire presented to law enforcement in regards to doing their job. However, it also demonstrated that they are aware of police brutality and want to mitigate its occurrences. Looking for the cameras though is now something that is getting more and more common among law enforcement. Nobody wants to get “caught” doing anything that would cause a lawsuit or human rights violation.
Another issue is that this store has an excellent relationship with the community and law enforcement. The owners do not wish to makes waves and get anyone in trouble. The grandmother did not want the African American homeless man to get in trouble nor do they want any law enforcement to get in trouble for coming to their aid. The issues are typical and all too common AAPI dilemma. They are caught between not making trouble and inviting more crime against them for their lack of reporting of crime.
As an AAPI business owner this grandmother had gotten used to being constantly harassed or had her tip jars stolen. On one occasion she chased after a young African American teenager who swiped the tip jar. When she caught up with him behind the fire department station, he raised his skateboard in a threatening manner ending the pursuit. She almost got beaten over a few dollars, but it was the indignity and pain that disturbed her the most.
This grandmother had spent decades always working endlessly in a 24 store sleeping only a few hours every day, and never more than briefly at that. When a customer enters, you must rise and serve. When a customer wants something, you serve them the best you can. When a customer needs something, you must hold your water and endure. When a customer is hungry, you cannot eat until the last one is served. In a 24 hour store the last one served could be hours upon hours away from respite. When a customer wants something, you cannot have anything for yourself until their needs are satisfied…
She had known this homeless person for quite some time. He had frequented the store and tried to sleep inside on many occasions. He would steal orange juices from the refrigerator, take a sip, put it back and sip another. When caught the grandmother would always ask him if he had money. He would always defiantly reply no and be asked to leave. Yet still after all of this history of discord she would not call the police on him.
After the arrest an LAPD officer informed the grandmother that the suspect would return. They could not keep him locked up, and there was a high chance that he would be back. Currently California passed a law requiring the state to release nonviolent offenders early if needed because of overcrowding. So our revolving door justice system will allow this suspect to be released and possibly return for vengeance.
This is the present state of our community and another AAPI family is afraid of violent retributions. This even though they did not even call the police.
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