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KING CASE AFTERMATH: A CITY IN CRISIS : Looters, Merchants Put Koreatown Under the Gun : Violence: Lacking confidence in the police, employees and others armed themselves to protect mini-mall.

May 02, 1992|ASHLEY DUNN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The men relaxed, although they continued to receive reports of violence through the night.

One Korean merchant drove by and told them a Korean was killed near 3rd Street and Hobart Boulevard.

The men huddled around a radio tuned to a Korean-language station. The station reported 200 police uniforms had been stolen. "So we must check and be sure," the announcer said. "We cannot trust a person just because they are wearing a uniform."

Another report of a Korean restaurant on fire in Reseda was broadcast and the station announcer asks the owner to respond. The men grow grim.

At 10:30 p.m. the calm is shattered as several police cars pull up and a group of officers barrels out, leveling weapons at the Koreans.

"Get your hands up!" an officer yelled. "Hands up! Stand up! Hands up!"

The Koreans stood frozen for a moment, uncertain what the officers wanted.

"Hands up!" the officer yelled again as a floodlight from a police car scanned the group.

For a moment, the two groups stood motionless before each other.

"Wait," an officer finally said. "This isn't it. They're all Koreans."

The officers returned to their cars and sped off.

The Koreans chuckled in relief. A few minutes later a single squad car pulled up next to the parking lot and stopped.

Richard Rhee stared at the black Los Angeles police officer at the wheel.

"William, is that you?" Rhee asked.

The officer nodded and smiled back.

"Stay here with us," Rhee said.

The officer smiled and shook his head. "I wish I could," he said before he drove off into the night.

Times staff writer Laurie Becklund contributed to this story.

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