A security guard who shot 60-year old Jiansheng Chen in Chesapeake, Virginia last month now faces second-degree murder charges, and the security company he worked for has been fired by the Homeowner’s Association at the complex where Chen was killed.
Chen was reportedly playing “Pokemon Go” — an enhanced reality game wherein users visit local landmarks to collect pokemon and send them into battle — on the evening of January 26th when he pulled into the driveway of the clubhouse at the Riverwalk community complex less than a mile from his house. While parked in his minivan, Chen — whom family say had started playing the mobile app to better relate with his grandkids — was confronted by a vehicle driven by security guard 21-year-old Johnathan Cromwell of Virginia Beach that pulled up in front of him to block him. Chen then backed his minivan out of the Riverwalk clubhouse driveway and turned to face the street, apparently preparing to leave. That’s when Cromwell reportedly got out of his car and fired several shots from a handgun, hitting Chen five times, including four times in the chest.
Chen, who was 60 years old and unarmed, died on the scene.
By Guest Contributor: Bao Phi
When I began reading that a White House petition had collected 100,000 signatures — many of them reportedly Chinese names — in defense of Peter Liang, a cop who shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a patrol of a housing project in New York, I was perplexed. At a time when the horrible abuse and killing of nonwhite bodies, predominantly Black, was making the news every week, why were so many Asian people defending an officer who wrongfully killed a Black man? And where were these 100,000 people during the wrongful death lawsuit by the family of slain Hmong teenager Fong Lee, killed by a white officer (awarded a Medal of Valor for the killing) with a history of abuse against Black and Hmong people?
But I took a step back, and read about some of the Chinese people who were in support of Liang. Some of them felt he was scapegoated. Some claimed the Liang case was about political maneuvering. Some said they were tired of being pushed around. What was going on here? How was the information on this case being broadcast in non-English media? It’s hard to get more than 100,000 Asians in America to sign onto anything — who got them to sign on to support this officer?
To some, it all may seem cut and dried. Asians are just being selfish and anti-Black again, only coming out of their wannabe white lifestyles to support one of their own. But then what about the cases where Asians have been the victims of police violence that don’t draw anywhere near the same zeitgeist? How do those instances of racist violence against Asians, statistically not as frequent but still racist, fit into our understanding of state sanctioned violence against Asian bodies?
It has been nearly a month since the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, and in that time, the nation has become engrossed in a long overdue national conversation over race, race relations, racial profiling and police brutality. Countless think-pieces have been written about police brutality, school-to-prison pipelines, racial profiling, the myth of Black criminality, Black-on-Black crime, and cultural pathology. In this past month, it has seemed as if the entire country is struggling through their first “race moment”, forced by Brown’s untimely death to grapple with the fact of institutionalized racism against the Black body; this seems like an issue that too many would rather ignore.
Consequently, several mainstream media outlets have reported on the stark racial divide between Black and White Americans on Ferguson and whether or not racism is a problem in America; nearly half surveyed White Americans think Brown’s shooting death is being overracialized. While two-thirds of Black Americans think excessive force by police is a problem, only one-third of White Americans agree. This clear chasm between Black and White attitudes on race and police effectiveness is both well-documented and not altogether surprising: these answers are heavily influenced by one’s own personal experiences with racism and police brutality, and both economic and skin privilege often protects Whites from unjust run-ins with local police.
But where do Asian Americans — who are both people of colour yet who endure a completely different set of racial stereotypes in America than do other minorities — fall on questions of police brutality?
I blogged earlier this year about the story of Kang Chun Wong, the 84 year old Chinese American man who was brutally beaten by New York City Police Department officers after he was stopped for an alleged incident of jaywalking. Wong, who speaks predominantly Cantonese and Spanish, was walking on the Upper West side when he was stopped by Officer Jeffry Loo at the intersection of 96th and Broadway.
According to the NY Daily News, Officer Loo asked for Wong’s identification, which Wong provided. However, when Loo began to walk away with the ID, Wong — not understanding what was happening — protested. That’s when Loo, along with several officers pushed Wong against the wall of a building and then slammed him to the ground, bloodying his head. Witnesses were horrified, capturing graphic pictures of Wong being handcuffed and taken away.
Wong was eventually charged with jaywalking, along with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, however the Manhattan district attorney’s office decided not to prosecute the case.
Now, Wong — through his attorney Sanford Rubenstein — is suing the city and the NYPD for $5 million dollars.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!