A coalition of Latino and African American community organizations demanded Wednesday that prosecutors charge a Lynwood grocer who shot and critically wounded a 14-year-old boy he suspected of shoplifting a bag of cookies.
Michael Kim, the owner of Charlie's Market in the 3200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, told authorities he shot the teen-ager during a confrontation April 2 because he thought he was reaching for a weapon in his waistband.
The shooting has outraged many Latinos and African Americans in Lynwood and nearby communities who see it as a racially motivated attack. The teen-ager who was shot is Latino; Kim is Korean American.
The wounded boy was one of five youths who entered the store, according to a Sheriff's Department report. Three of the boys bought items, but two others allegedly left without paying for cookies they took, deputies said.
Kim chased those two s several blocks in his car. He told deputies that one drew a knife when he was confronted. The other motioned as though he were reaching for his waistband, Kim said.
The grocer said he shot the youth who reached for his waistband and then drove him back to the store to call for help.
"Kim had time to think and plan the shooting," Virginia Reade, an activist in the Mexican American community, said Wednesday at a press conference outside the courthouse in Compton. "We demand the sentence suit the crime. Anything less could lead to further shootings by Koreans and a race war far worse than the King rebellion."
The Sheriff's Department is continuing its investigation and will not make any recommendation about charges until the middle of next week, said Mike Botula, a spokesman for Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti.
Reade said Wednesday's press conference was held outside the Compton Courthouse because "it is symbolic of the kind of judicial injustice Africans and Mexicans get in this judicial system."
The group also chose Compton, Reade said, because that courthouse is where grocer Soon Ja Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of African American teen-ager Latasha Harlins during a dispute over a bottle of orange juice. She was sentenced to probation by Superior Court Judge Joyce Karlin, a decision that angered much of the black community.
"We have to have a greater sanctity for human life," said Danny Bakewell, representing the Brotherhood Crusade at Wednesday's press conference. "There needs to be equal justice under the law."