Lighting A Candle For Eun Kang
By Krista Schwimmer
On Monday evening, December 14th, I take Palms Avenue to Electric Avenue in search of the home of Eun Kang, a 39-year-old woman four months pregnant with twins, who had been raped and stabbed to death in her own home on December 8th. Tonight, at 6 pm, the Venice community is holding a candlelight vigil on her behalf, an event organized by a neighbor, Jim Hubbard.
As I turn on to Electric Avenue, I hesitate. The street before me is extremely dark. Few street lights and a balsamic moon to boot. What makes matters worse is that steel, industrial fences line the west side of the street, securing businesses like Mars Body Shop. Nobody is around. Is 5:30 pm really that early, I think? I continue anyway, soon being joined by another reporter, a man from the L.A. Times. We walk together to Eun Kang’s residence.
Outside her home, I find myself walking under a canopy of bamboo growing on both sides of the sidewalk, adding to the seclusion created by a tall fence. I walk through an open gate, noting surrounding small pools of murmuring water, as well as a serene altar before me, already lit with a few candles. There is Eun Kang’s smiling face next to a statue of a seated Buddha. She is holding either a red surf or body board. Flowers, fruit and incense fill out the rest of the altar. Later that night, I hear a woman say she brought a lemon from her tree as she heard Buddhists place fruit on their altars.
To the south of Eun’s building, a tall man with long white hair and beard, garbed in a black robe and black headdress, is speaking to another woman. He moves towards me. When I comment on the irony of such a tranquil place being where a terrible crime had so recently occurred, the man speaks up saying how he feels it was a desecration of the place, an act that has sorely tried his faith in humanity. He then says “Let’s resurrect the word evil.” For him, mental illness is not something “to fall back on” when seeking an explanation for this crime. I learn this man is Arnold Springer, friend and landlord to Eun Kang, as well as the man who called “911” when he allegedly witnessed the suspect, 22-year-old Boneetio Kentro Washington, attacking Eun inside her home. Nearby police quickly responded and apprehended Washington, later booking and charging the suspect with Murder with Special Circumstances.
People begin to file in to light their candles and place them on the shrine dedicated to Eun. One woman carries extra tea lights for other people. Three photographers stand to the left of the altar, furiously snapping photos of individuals lighting candles. Wary of the camera men, a second woman refrains from lighting her candle.
On the street in front of Kang’s home, the officials attending the vigil already are congregating, drawing an audience of well over 125 people. I move to the curb just in time to hear a man exclaim that people are calling for a Christian prayer. He then proceeds to lead the crowd in reciting a popular one.
Next, with all eyes now on him, Arnold Springer once more expresses his outrage about Eun Kang’s murder. He tells the crowd about how Kang had originally come from Korea six years ago to take care of her sick brother. He says she was a designer of fashion and clothing, and that she was honest and hard-working.
The crowd circles closer together, faces softened by candlelight or tears. We are like a single pulsating cell unified by our sense of pain and outrage. A Mexican woman cries out. She says she has lived in Venice for 40 years and that she is “more than outraged.” She calls on everyone “to be more vigilant” as well as “more hospitable” neighbors.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl then interjects to make his official comments. He starts by saying that the city is outraged at this horrible act. He then gives condolences to Arnold for having witnessed the crime. Rosendahl says he spoke earlier to Eun Kang’s cousin who could not be there, but appreciated the community’s support. He continues by saying how words cannot express the suffering the family must be going through.
Rosendahl also speaks about the investigation. The police are still investigating where the suspect, Boneetio Washington, was living. It was somewhere in Culver City. The suspect does have a rap sheet. There is no apparent relationship between Boneetio and Eun. Councilman Rosendahl then thanks the police for their quick response, an appreciation repeated by others throughout the vigil.
More Venetians begin speaking up, largely women. A curly haired, blonde woman wearing a red scarf shares in disbelief how she was home baking Christmas cookies at the time of the murder. She raises the problem of lighting here and on Crescent, asking Bill Rosendahl to walk over with her himself. She suggests hiring a private security service to walk this area, as well as not letting people follow you at night. As a tribute to Eun Kang, she says we should live our lives to the fullest.
A slim officer with a somber expression then introduces himself as Captain Andrew Smith, Assistant Commanding Officer of Operations, South Bureau. He says “this tragic, tragic crime has affected all the officers”. He does not know of a single officer whose heart was not broken over it. He brings up the idea of neighborhood watches and urges people to call whenever they see something suspicious. He emphasizes that he would rather come out on a hundred false alarms then have people not call at all. Later that night, I overhear this same officer say that he even received calls of concern from across the country. “This is one of the scariest crimes there is,” he adds.
Lastly, I hear Linda Lucks, Vice President of the Venice Neighborhood Council, briefly speak. She suggests all attending channel their anger into something positive.
As the crowd begins to disperse, I grow nervous about walking alone down the even darker Electric Avenue. Normally, I stroll along Venice streets without hesitation. Wendy, a woman I just met, kindly offers to take me to the corner of Electric and Palms, where my journey began. Tonight, I realize that it is not a time to walk alone. It is a time to acknowledge community in the face of tragedy. So, I accept her offer. We walk into the neighboring darkness, side by side — the candle originally lit for the slain Eun Kang and her unborn twins, now revealing the way before us.