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Sacramento Official's Home Is Firebombed : Crime: Attack on Chinese-American councilman is the fourth racially motivated assault in 10 weeks. The incidents may not be linked, authorities say.

October 06, 1993|JENIFER WARREN and VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — The home of a Chinese-American city councilman was firebombed early Tuesday in what police are calling the fourth episode of racially motivated violence to strike Sacramento in 10 weeks.

Moments after Councilman Jimmie Yee and his wife were roused from bed by the pre-dawn attack, a group calling itself the Aryan Liberation Front telephoned a television station to claim responsibility for the string of crimes.

Police, along with federal agents assisting in the investigation, said they have never heard of the group and are skeptical of the claim.

The Yees, who live in a downtown neighborhood called Land Park, were not injured in Tuesday's bombing. But police, city officials and ethnic leaders called the latest attack--the first to target someone's home--a frightening escalation of the violence.

"This has launched a chilling new chapter of these horrible, cowardly crimes," said Michael Heenan, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. "When someone's residence is targeted, we view it as attempted murder."

Gov. Pete Wilson took time out from a news conference on another topic to comment at length on the attacks, which he called hateful.

"There is no place in California for that kind of conduct," Wilson said. "We will not put up with it."

Yee, meanwhile, said the incident was terrifying for him and his wife. Although his home was not seriously damaged, he said the Molotov cocktail was hurled through a window of a bedroom where his grown son had been sleeping until just a few weeks ago.

"He had just bought his own house and moved out when it happened," Yee said.

The councilman said that he had no idea who would have thrown the bomb and that he had received no threats. Shortly after midnight, he received a strange telephone call but said he did not consider the call threatening and dismissed it as a prank. Police have asked him not to divulge the contents of the call, he said.

Tuesday's attack came three days after a similar firebombing torched the offices of the Japanese American Citizens' League. In that attack, a fire caused $30,000 in damage and left the national group temporarily homeless.

A July 27 firebombing caused $130,000 in damage at an office of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, and an apparent arson attempt occurred a day earlier at B'nai Israel Temple. All the incidents occurred in the downtown Sacramento area and all involved Molotov cocktails.

Despite the similarities, FBI Special Agent Joseph Sheehan said authorities are not convinced that the four crimes are linked. Agents are skeptical of the claim of responsibility by the white supremacy group, he said, because it seems unlikely the culprits would wait so long to speak out about the two bombings in July.

Regardless of whether there is a connection, solving such crimes is difficult because physical evidence is scarce and there are generally few witnesses, authorities said. The last two attacks have yielded a bit more evidence than the first two, but as yet there are no suspects, they said.

Representatives of ethnic groups condemned the attacks but said the violence would not change their agenda or deter them from their mission. They plan to post a reward to encourage possible witnesses to come forward.

"We may be in temporary headquarters, but we will continue with our work and remain committed to our activities," said Andy Noguchi, a leader of the Japanese American Citizens' League. "The community is standing strongly together and is dedicated to making sure these culprits are put away."

In addition to the firebombings, an NAACP office and two businesses owned by blacks have recently been struck by vandalism, which included racist graffiti. Investigators also are looking for links between the Sacramento crimes and an arson last weekend at a church in Davis that is used part time by people of Korean descent.

Warren reported from San Francisco, Ellis from Sacramento.

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