Leads Sought in Slaying of Cabdriver

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All anybody knows about the last hour of Hak Choon Chun's life is that the industrious grandfather drove his taxi to South-Central Los Angeles to pick up one last fare.

About 1 a.m. Monday, a passerby found Chun shot to death in the street near Century Boulevard and Main Street, said Los Angeles Police Det. Ray Jankowski. His green cab was found hours later abandoned in Riverside, Jankowski said.

"We have no reason why this happened. We have no witnesses. It's wide open," Jankowski said.

The killing has devastated Chun's family in Garden Grove. The 64-year-old father of four slogged through long hours to support his family, including his 88-year-old mother and his wife, Myung Chun, 59, who had heart surgery two weeks ago, their son Samuel said Thursday.

"Whoever did this to us . . . it's like we were going into the clear, looking out to get to more flat land, and he pushed us off a cliff with a bulldozer," Samuel Chun, 29, said. "He knew the job was dangerous, but he probably felt he had no choice. He probably thought, 'I have to go, even if I make just one dollar extra for my family.' "

Chun had been a city employee in Korea and his wife had owned a restaurant. But when it failed, they left for the United States and new opportunities. Here, they opened a restaurant near Koreatown, but in 1997 that business also failed, Samuel Chun said.

"He put his entire retirement money into that restaurant," his son said. "He felt he lost 30 years in one shot."

He started driving a cab three years ago for the Bell Cab Co., mostly out of the Koreatown and Wilshire areas. At night, he took English classes at an adult school, and he carried a dictionary to help him on the job, his son said.

"He was a very quiet guy, hard-working--a good driver," said Simon Momen, director of operations for the company. Chun's killing "shook up many drivers. Some don't want to drive at night."

Many of the drivers will attend services for Chun at the California Mortuary in Downey today.

"It's not hard to find a driver who hasn't been threatened or worse," said Abraham Sutherland, 26, a colleague of Chun at Bell Cab.

The homicide rate for taxicab drivers is 60 times the national average for other occupations, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In May, a cabdriver was shot and killed in the 14500 block of Wyandotte Avenue. In January, a taxi driver was found shot to death in the San Gabriel Valley.

Anyone with information is asked to call LAPD detectives at (213) 485-6902.

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