SEAL BEACH (CBSLA) -- Following the deadly spa shootings in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six Asian Americans, there is growing concern about the safety of people within the Asian American Pacific Islander community, which is seeing an uptick in hate incidents.
Claudia Choi is devastated and furious.
"To target a grieving widow, it's disgusting."
On Friday, her family laid her beloved father, Byong, to rest and on that same day, a hateful letter was postmarked to them.
"They postmarked it on the day of my father's funeral. How cruel could you be? Shame on them."
The letter read: "Now that Byong is gone, it's one less Asian we have to put up with in Leisure World... Watch out! Pack your bags and go back to your country where you belong."
It's a personal attack but Cho believes it's also part of growing anti-Asian sentiment since the pandemic began.
The Stop AAPI Hate organization has had 360 hate incidents reported in Los Angeles in a year, 3,800 nationwide in 2020, which is a 149% spike from the year before.
What happened to Byong is one more incident, and what makes Choi even angrier and worried is that it appears the letter came from inside her parents' 55-plus community, Leisure World, in Seal Beach.
"Racism and hatred and cruelty needs to be denounced at every turn," Choi said. "It' not just when somebody gets beaten up, although that's terrible or when women get murdered, that's awful but when your neighbor says something like they need to go home or makes an Asian joke, you need to speak up and say that is not okay because these little things that we allow to pass lead to bigger things."
Across town in Santa Monica at her popular DK's Donut Shop, Chuong Lee is hearing these kinds of stories, and living in fear.
"One of my friends called me he said, hey sister where you going? I said I'm going to shopping, he said, no don't go, you know what if they see Asian, you might have a problem," Lee said.
Her daughter Mayly posted about the fear her mom and other older Asian people have right now, and was flooded with offers to take her mom out on errands to protect her and the shop.
Choi reported the letter to the police, who are investigating, and to the FBI since it came through the mail.
Handwriting and fingerprinting analysis and DNA testing will be used to try to identify the sender of the letter, police said.
"Hate directed toward any member of our community is disgusting and will not be tolerated,'' Seal Beach Police Chief Philip L. Gonshak said. "Across the country, we are seeing more and more violence committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We will not allow this to happen in Seal Beach. Our investigators are working hard to follow up on any and all leads we
Leisure World said in a statement that they condemn the actions of the person who wrote the racist letter.
"This malicious and egregious act of hate speech threatens our core values of racial equity and social justice... We condemn in the strongest possible terms such action and that all actions will be taken to locate and prosecute the individual."
Leisure World also told the family there is a board consensus that if the writer is a resident, they'll take action to remove the individual from the community.
Anyone who witnesses a hate crime is encouraged to report it to local authorities. Information about this specific crime can be reported to Detective Jon Ainley at 562-799-4100, ext. 1113.
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