Japanese American Dies After Alleged Assault in Ventura, Calif.

One night in October, Glenn S. Hanamoto walked into the Red Cove bar in Ventura, Calif. to sell hot dogs and was allegedly attacked by skinheads. The next morning he was dead.

After leaving the bar on his own power on Sunday, Oct. 18, the 44-year-old Hanamoto told his girlfriend that “some skinheads beat me up,” his older brother, Tracy S. Hanamoto, told the Nichi Bei Weekly in a phone interview.

Glenn Hanamoto died the next morning, his older brother said.

Police are investigating the situation, but have yet to indicate whether the attack was racially motivated.

On Oct. 18, Hanamoto stationed himself across the street from the bar — located at 1809 E Main St. in Ventura — to sell hot dogs, his brother said. Hanamoto later entered the bar, his girlfriend did not.

“She picked up the vibe” and did not feel comfortable entering the bar, Tracy Hanamoto said. His younger brother’s girlfriend is black, Hanamoto said.

Glenn Hanamoto “refused medical treatment” after the altercation at the bar, Tracy Hanamoto said.

The pair remained at the location, selling hot dogs until about 3:30 a.m., Tracy Hanamoto said. They went to other locations and eventually ended up at Point Mugu State Park the next morning sometime after 10 a.m., Tracy Hanamoto said.

Craig Stevens, senior deputy medical examiner for the Ventura County Coroner, saw during the on-scene investigation that Hanamoto’s body had bruises visible that were “consistent with a physical altercation.” His body was found in his mobile home, which was parked close to Mugu Rock at Point Mugu State Park on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The cause of Hanamoto’s death is pending laboratory results, which may not be available for 12 weeks, Stevens said on Nov. 2.

Citing the coroner’s results, Tracy Hanamoto said that his brother had suffered a broken collarbone, broken ribs and “a lot of bruises.” He also suffered from “health issues,” including “an infection.”

Tracy Hanamoto described his brother as “mellow” and “pretty quiet,” and said that he didn’t think it was very likely that he would have instigated trouble.

The deceased was a resident of North Hills in Los Angeles County, Stevens said.

Sgt. Jack Richards, a public information officer for the Ventura Police Department, said his office had previously received calls from the Red Cove bar, but would not characterize the bar or its vicinity as a problem area.

The Red Cove bar did not respond to requests for comment.

A 25-year-veteran of the Ventura Police Department, Richards acknowledged that the city — with a population of 106,744 — has had hate crimes in the past.

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias.” It is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

The Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific American Legal Center has “anecdotally” observed that “many…hate-related incidents we have heard about over the past few years have come from the rapidly growing counties and suburban cities surrounding Los Angeles county and city,” Karin Wang, the organization’s vice-president of programs, said in an e-mail.

“In most of these cases, the perpetrators are often ‘skinheads’ or white supremacists. We have gotten calls from eastern Los Angeles County as well as San Bernadino, Riverside and Ventura counties,” she added.

Citing the “past history of hate crimes in the area,” combined with the “presence of white supremacists,” Craig Ishii, regional director for the JACL’s Pacific Southwest District, said that the JACL believes that the situation which led to Hanamoto’s death might constitute a hate crime.

The JACL, however, is awaiting the results from the coroner before speaking more conclusively or launching “an all-out advocacy campaign,” Ishii said in an e-mail.

Scott Chan, JACL civil rights caucus chair for the Pacific Southwest District, said that the organization is also drafting a letter to the police department indicating that it is monitoring the case, and hopes for a “very accurate, expedient” and transparent process for investigating what led to Hanamoto’s death.

“Glenn was obviously attacked. We need to know why. We need to talk about it,” he said.

Also important, Chan said, is the need for transparency and fairness within the law enforcement agencies.

Dien Le, who has lived in Ventura County for 30 years, has heard that there are groups of skinheads in Ventura County. Le has been “lucky enough” to have avoided the groups, he said.

The county’s Asian American population has grown much more diverse over time, said Le, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family from Vietnam in 1975. While Le, the founder and former president of the Ventura County Asian American Bar Association, recalls being teased in school, he said he never witnessed any hate crimes.

As Asian Americans and other minorities gain more visibility, however, Le said others “may feel they’re being overrun, especially when the job market is bad.”

For some Asian American activists, Hanamoto’s death has brought to mind other Asian Americans who have fallen victim to hate crimes, among them Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man who was beaten to death by white autoworkers in Detroit in 1982.

In 1999, U.S. postal worker Joseph Ileto was shot and killed by white supremacist Buford O. Furrow, Jr., who opened fire in a Jewish community center near Los Angeles.

Tracy Hanamoto is resigned to allowing the “investigation [to] run its course. Nothing can bring him back.”

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