New York Story: Anti-Asian violence group wants new investigation into the killing of Yong Xin Huang; shades of Vincent ChinBy TOMIO GERON
October 13, 1995. AsianWeek, pg. 1
A coalition of New York community groups is claiming a minor victory this week in what some consider to be the highest profile case of anti-Asian violence since Vincent Chin was murdered by unemployed Detroit auto workers in 1982.
On Tuesday, following a meeting at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse with representatives of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) and five others groups, U.S. District Attorney Zachary Carter agreed to reexamine the controversial police killing of 16-year-old Yong Xin Huang. Huang was shot and killed in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, by a Caucasian New York City police officer on March 24.
The community leaders convinced Carter to reexamine transcripts from the grand jury hearing in May in which the grand jury voted not indict the officer, Steven Mizrahi. Carter also agreed to listen to evidence that was not presented to the grand jury by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
The advocates demanded a federal investigation into violations of Huang's civil rights and expressed cautious satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting. "As positive as this sounds, we must maintain our vigilance," said Anannya Bhattacharjee, executive director of CAAAV and a participant in the meeting with Carter.
Huang, an eighth grader at Robert Wagner Junior High School, was playing in his friend's driveway in Sheepshead Bay on March 24 when Mizrahi responded to a neighbor's report that kids were playing with a gun, which turned out to be a pellet gun.
Police maintain that Huang was killed when Mizrahi accidentally discharged his hair-trigger 9-mm service weapon at point-blank range during a face-to-face struggle.
But CAAAV insists that Huang, a slight young man of 115 pounds, could not have struggled with the much larger Mizrahi. They point to witness accounts of a lack of struggle as evidence that the killing was not an accident. CAAAV also questions how Huang could have been shot in the back of the head in a face-to-face struggle.
"Too much of what we know is in conflict with what the police tell us," said Hyun Kim of CAAAV.
Police said Mizrahi and Huang fell through a glass door during the struggle, while CAAAV claims that the medical examiner found glass lacerations on the front of Huang's face, indicating that Huang was pushed face-first through the door.
In May, District Attorney Hynes decided not to press charges against Mizrahi, and a grand jury refused to indict him. Since then, CAAAV has organized a nationwide campaign to initiate a federal investigation into civil-rights violations by Mizrahi.
When it asked for the Oct. 10 meeting, CAAAV presented Carter with over 10,000 signatures and the names of over 40 civil-rights organizations supporting a federal investigation.
"There are definite parallels to the Vincent Chin case," said Tamina Davar of CAAAV, noting the apparent miscarriage of justice, the response to Huang's death, and the grand jury's findings. In the Chin case, the two men convicted of the attack were given community service as punishment.
Davar emphasized that Huang's death is indicative of a larger problem. "Yong Xin Huang is not an isolated incident, but is part of a continuous pattern of police brutality that is killing our Asian American youth, our African American youth, and our Latino youth."
Davar cited a recent report by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC), which showed that a majority of reported bias cases against Asian Americans are committed by police. She also pointed to political scapegoating of immigrants as a cause of an NAPALC finding that anti-Asian violence is the fastest growing form of bias crime.
While the meeting took place inside the courthouse, a group of about 40 supporters joined Huang's mother and three sisters in a candlelight vigil outside to remember Huang and to protest police brutality.
Huang's sister Joyce described him as a model student who studied hard and enjoyed baseball cards and basketball. "He had so much respect for his family," she said. "He didn't deserve to die."
"The DA says this is a freak accident, a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. But we say no, this isn't anything new to us," said Eric Tang of CAAAV. "Too many of our young people are dying at the hands of police because of the color of their skin."
Some speakers at the vigil pointed to recent well-publicized police corruption cases in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York City as evidence of nationwide "systemic" racist police brutality.
The Yong Xin Huang campaign is part of increasing cooperative efforts between Asian American, African American, and Latino activist groups in New York City in response to budget cuts proposed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani earlier this year. On April 25, CAAAV, NCPR, City University of New York students, and ACT-UP staged an act of civil disobedience by blocking four New York City bridges to protest proposed budget cuts and police brutality under the Giuliani administration.
The Huang family, represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, have also brought civil charges against Mizrahi and the NYPD, which are pending.
CAAAV members plan to continue meeting with Carter, to ensure that Huang's case is investigated thoroughly and that wider police brutality is confronted.
In addition to CAAAV representatives Hyun Lee and Anannya Bhattacharjee, the other representatives at the two-hour meeting were Josephine Chung of the Organization for Chinese American/New York, Charles Hall of Black Cops Against Police Brutality, the Reverend Ron Winley of the Racial Justice Initiative at Riverside Church, and Vincente Alba of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights.
Copyright 1995 AsianWeek/Pan Asia Venture Capital Corp.
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