Remember Michael Cho

If you live in the LA area and are Korean, you probably already know about this. But if you don’t, I thought I should pass along this vigil at UCLA in honor of Michael Cho who was gunned down by police in La Habra.

UCLA Campus Vigil for Mike Cho
7:00pm – 10:00pm, Thursday, February 28, 2008

UCLA Bruin Plaza
308 Westwood Plaza

Los Angeles, CA

 Justice for Mike Cho and UCLA’s Korean American Students Association,
Queer Alliance, and Asian Pacific Coalition are hosting a campus vigil
for Michael S. Cho Thursday, February 28th, 7-10pm at the UCLA Bruin
Plaza.

Everybody is welcome to bring instruments to play along with the crowd.

If
you knew Mike or work with a civil rights organizations and would like
to speak at the event, please contact justiceformikecho@gmail.com.

Please invite all friends to this event.

Here is an article from the LA Times about the case:

On New Year’s Eve, La Habra police shot and killed Michael Cho in a
strip mall parking lot when he allegedly threatened officers with a
tire iron.

The killing of the UCLA graduate and artist has set off criticism of
police not heard in Southern California’s Korean American community
since the 1992 Los Angeles riots, when shop owners complained that
officers never showed up to stop looters, and they picked up guns to
defend their stores.

This time, community leaders say La Habra police were too quick on the trigger when responding to a vandalism call.

“We haven’t seen this expression of shock, disbelief and sadness in the
community before,” said Richard Choi Bertsch, of the Orange County
Korean American Coalition. “All of the first-generation parents are
saying, ‘This could’ve been my kid.’ ” Charles Kim, a La Habra resident
and past national president of the Korean American Coalition, said that
“the community’s mind is pretty much set that the police overreacted.”

The shooting has been widely followed in the Korean-language media.
Korea Times reporter John Lee called it “one of the biggest stories”
and said every new development is reported “as soon as it comes in.”

Three weeks after Cho’s death, the Korean Community Lawyers’ Assn.
sponsored a meeting in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, where lawyers and a
former police official discussed the use of deadly force. One topic on
the agenda was “Defining Police Use of Force: How to Prevent Another
Korean From Being Shot.” The Justice for Michael Cho committee has
organized vigils at the shooting site and in front of the La Habra
police station and will take a delegation to the next City Council
meeting Feb. 19.

Sensing the concern, police Chief Dennis Kies asked the Orange County
Human Relations Commission to arrange a meeting with community leaders
in Garden Grove on Jan. 4. Executive Director Rusty Kennedy said the
meeting, attended by about 30 people, was “contentious but orderly.”

“There was some anger. People posed challenging questions and wanted to
know why police didn’t use nonlethal force,” Kennedy said. “They wanted
to know why the young man was shot so many times, and how would [Kies]
feel if it had been his son.”

The Orange County district attorney’s office is investigating the
shooting, but few community leaders expect the two officers involved to
be punished for the 25-year-old artist’s death. Authorities refused to
identify the officers.

District attorney’s spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder said the last
time an Orange County police officer was prosecuted for shooting
someone while on duty was in the 1980s.

Cho’s family has hired attorney Mark Geragos’ firm to represent them in
a possible lawsuit against police. Geragos has represented several
high-profile clients, including Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, who
was convicted of killing his wife, and Brent R. Wilkes, convicted of
bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe).

In addition, the Korean Community Lawyers’ Assn. has assigned an
attorney and hired an investigator to conduct a separate probe.

The Cho family said a lawsuit may lead to answers that authorities have not provided.

Information released by police after the Dec. 31 shooting said officers
responded about 1 p.m. to a call about an Asian man vandalizing cars in
the 900 block of North Walnut Avenue.

They were unable to find the vandal. An hour later, another call said
he was at Walnut Street and Whittier Avenue, carrying a tire iron.

The caller identified a man who turned out to be Cho, who was
standing outside a liquor store. A store surveillance tape first
obtained by the Korea Times and posted on the Internet shows Cho
walking toward two officers, who have guns drawn, a sequence that lasts
about 25 seconds.

Cho brings his right hand to his mouth and appears to hold something in his left hand, which hangs by his side.

With both officers still pointing their guns at him, he makes a right turn and walks out of camera range.

Police said in a news release that Cho was “agitated” and ignored orders to drop the tire iron.

Instead, police say, Cho walked toward one of the officers and
“raised the tire iron above his head” as if to strike. Both officers
fired numerous shots.

Pat Harris, the family’s attorney, said Cho was shot at least 10 times.

Honglan Cho said the surveillance tape shows that her son was “very calm and relaxed” and not a threat to police.

She said he regularly walked to the strip mall to buy cigarettes or eat at a nearby fast-food restaurant.

Three hours after the shooting, police went to Cho’s parents’ home,
saying they had received a vandalism report and inquired about their
son, said Sung Man Cho, a painting contractor.

They did not tell him that Michael Cho was dead, he said.

Police returned at 8 p.m. They said Cho was dead but did not say how he died, the father said.

The family was unclear about when they learned how he was killed.

Honglan Cho, 58, a nurse, said she called the coroner’s office on
New Year’s Day, the day after her son died, and an employee asked if
there was anything she could do. “I said you can bring my son back.”

He expressed himself through music, sculpture, drawing and ceramics, which became his passion.

In 2005, after graduating from UCLA, Cho went to South Korea to study traditional Korean ceramic art, his mother said.

He was also active in his church, where he taught art to disabled
children.Cho planned to apply to Yale University’s master’s program in
art and become a college professor.

His friends started a group on the social networking website Facebook that has more than 2,600 members.

The site, “stop police brutality — remember Michael Cho,” was
launched “to celebrate his wonderful life” and protest his death.

“A beautiful young man has lost his life and we can not allow him to
become just another person that has been lost to gun violence,” the
site says.

Visitors are asked to sign an online petition calling for a federal
investigation “as we do not believe that a local investigation would
either be sufficient or free of bias.”

Working in Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s intensive-care unit in
Bellflower, Honglan Cho spends her day in the midst of sickness and
suffering, a world her artist son considered dark and brooding.

“Mike told me that my life was colorless and plain. I trust God will
use Mike in a special way to bring color to heaven,” she said.

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