Latasha Harlins…20 Years Later is the Relationship Between Blacks and Koreans Better?

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It’s been 20 years since 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed on by Soon Ja Du, the 51 year-old Korean Empire liquor store owner exposing the often violent and racist relationship between Blacks and Koreans in Los Angeles.

Has the relationship between Blacks and Koreans improved in Los Angeles in the last 20 years since Latasha Harlins’ murder?  Why or why not?

In the past 20 years, has the relationship between Blacks and Koreans improved?

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The Story of Latasha Harlins

Harlins was a student at Westchester High School and was murdered by Du just thirteen days after the videotaped beating of Rodney King became public.

On March 16, 1991, Du saw Harlins putting a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and thought Harlins was stealing, even though Harlin was holding the money for the juice. Du attempted to grab Harlins by the sweater and snatched her backpack. Harlins hit Du with her fist three times, knocking Du to the ground. After Harlins backed away Du then threw a stool at her. Harlins then picked up the orange juice that dropped during the scuffle, threw it on the counter and turned to leave. Du reached under the counter to retrieve a handgun. Du then fired at Harlins from behind and shot her in the back of her head, then fainted. Du’s husband, Billy Heung Ki Du, heard the shot and rushed into the store. After speaking to his wife, who falsely claimed having been robbed, he dialed 9-1-1 to report the shooting. Paramedics soon arrived, but Harlins was dead, her two dollars still in her left hand.

Du testified on her own behalf, stating that it was self-defense and that her life was in danger, but her words were contradicted by the statements of the two witnesses present at the time and the security camera footage, which showed her shooting Harlins in the back of the head as Harlins was attempting to leave the store. However, the Los Angeles police department ballistics expert report also found that the handgun Du used was altered in such a way that, compared to an ordinary handgun, much less pressure on the trigger was necessary to result in firing.

The jury found Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter with a 16-year prison sentence recommendation, believing that Du’s shooting was fully within her control and she fired the gun voluntarily. The presiding judge, Joyce Karlin reduced the sentence to probation of five years, four hundred hours of community service, and a $500.00 fine.

Help Remember Latasha Harlins

In honor of Latasha Harlins, Friends of Afiba are presenting Latasha Harlins: A Black Woman’s Worth, a multi-media presentation and commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the murder of Latasha Harlins.

Saturday, March 19, 2011
2-4 pm
AFIBA Center
5730 Crenshaw Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA  90043

For more information, please call AFIBA Center at (323) 292-5550.


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  1. I think we all should remember Latasha Harlins on every March 19th. The fact of the matter is that in the USA a 15 year old person should NOT be executed for whatever reason by anyone, even by an Asian Immigrant. It can NEVER be justified. The Judge’s decision and comments were outrageous. I’m wondering why a Wrongful Death Lawsuit was never initiated. One thing is for sure: we should not allow this girl’s murder, sorry, Manslaughter, to be forgotten. It should be included in high school and college history courses and we should find ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

    Justice can not be capricious, illusory and biased. It must be resolute, steadfast, equitable and evenly dispensed to all of society, whether the parties are black, white, Asian, male or female. If the Justice System fails in it’s sworn duty, it fails society in general, and it makes Justice and the life and violent death of this young Latasha Harlins meaningless.