The FBI has been asked to investigate whether hate crimes were committed by companions of Chris Kinison, a 20-year-old man killed in Ocean Shores on the Fourth of July after allegedly hurling racial slurs at Asian-American tourists.
Asian-American groups in Seattle want the FBI to look at reports that Kinison and his friends had earlier in the holiday weekend attacked a group of Filipino-American visitors on the beach in the Grays Harbor County community and threatened an African-American man.
A 26-year-old Asian-American man, Minh Duc Hong, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for allegedly stabbing Kinison 22 times. Hong is claiming self-defense.
According to police reports, the stabbing occurred after Kinison, who is white, shouted a racial slur at Hong and two friends and displayed a Confederate flag.
The Asian Bar Association, Organization of Chinese Americans and Japanese American Citizens League suggest in a joint letter to the FBI that Hong should not be the only person investigated by law enforcement.
"There is ample evidence to suggest that over the course of the weekend, Kinison and others in his group committed hate crimes," the groups say in the letter to the FBI in Seattle. "We question why others who were involved in these incidents were not and-or have not been charged."
The groups want the FBI to look into what they believe are substandard investigations conducted by the Ocean Shores Police Department and the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Office. They also want the FBI to pursue federal hate-crimes charges against Kinison's friends if the facts uncovered by a federal probe warrant it.
Gerald Fuller, chief criminal deputy prosecutor for Grays Harbor County, says he is convinced the Ocean Shores police and Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Department have conducted complete and thorough investigations. Ocean Shores police Lt. Russ Fitts welcomes the FBI.
"There's no wrongdoing on our part, that's for sure," he says.
Ray Lauer, FBI spokesman, would not comment if the agency plans to launch a full-scale investigation into the Ocean Shores case.
"We take civil-rights violations very seriously and look at virtually everything brought to our attention to one degree or another," he said. "We investigate cases if we feel there is prosecutorial merit and substance to the allegations."
The three Asian-American groups are focusing on allegations that Kinison's friend, Gabriel Rodda, clashed with more than a dozen Filipino Americans in a parking lot on July 1 and that Kinison threatened to stab an African-American man on the beach while shouting racist remarks at him on July 3.
Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, president of the Asian Bar Association of Washington, says the alleged altercations should have been a warning to local law-enforcement agencies.
"Had they intervened, perhaps the tragedy would not have happened," she says.
Stuart Eskenazi's phone message number is 206-464-2293. His e-mail address is email@example.com.