A Korean American man told ABC News the story of what happened to him 25 years ago when cops confiscated his gun during the Los Angeles riots after the infamous Rodney King verdict.
It was the first time he’s ever told the story publicly.
Richard Kim rushed to his parents’ store in Koreatown when he heard that his mother had been shot on the second day of the riots. Arriving on the scene, he said the streets were in chaos with the police seemingly abandoning the area. He had a legally-obtained Ruger semi-automatic rifle and shot at cars near what he believed were the shooters. They drove away quickly.
Kim’s mother was taken to the hospital, and he stayed to protect the store. Kim was relieved when he spotted police, but they quickly handcuffed him and confiscated his gun. They had heard reports that Korean Americans were indiscriminately shooting into crowds.
His wife, who was his fiancé at the time, recalled seeing his detainment on television. “He was on his knees. He was being handcuffed along with some of his employees,” she said. “My heart just dropped to the pit of my stomach, and I couldn’t make sense of any of what I was seeing on TV.”
Police let Kim go when they couldn’t find anyone who was shot, but they told him they were under strict orders to confiscate any guns. When he asked if they would be protecting the shop, they said no.
“Then you can’t take our weapons,” Kim told the policeman. “You’ll leave us sitting ducks.”
Kim says the policeman handed him back his rifle without saying a word after looking him in the eye for a long time.
Although he was unable to save one of the two stores his parents owned, he took to a spot on the rooftop with his rifle to defend the second store. Kim says he stood guard without sleep for three days, watching other stores go up in flames. He was able to save the second shop.
Residents held events to mark the 25th anniversary of the riots that broke out in the wake of the verdict exonerating four Los Angeles policemen who were caught on videotape beating a black motorist, Rodney King. Two of the policemen were later convicted in federal court of violating King’s civil rights. Some 1,700 Korean-owned businesses were destroyed in the rioting and looting that ensued for four days and claimed about 50 lives.