Asian Reporter, V31, #4 (April 5, 2021), pages 8.
Atlanta spa shooting victim remembered as fun
By Kate Brumback
The Associated Press
PEACHTREE CORNERS, Ga. — While a pastor spoke during Yong Ae
Yue’s funeral last month, a sunbeam came through the window and
shone upon Yue’s two sons, a sure sign their mother was
watching, one of them said.
As his mother’s body lay before him in a casket draped with
pink flowers, Elliott Peterson pointed to a large photo of her
on display and asked friends and family gathered in a funeral
home in Peachtree Corners to remember her like that — a big grin
on her face and two fingers on each hand extended in a "V."
Yue was one of eight people fatally shot March 16 in attacks
on massage businesses in Atlanta and nearby Cherokee County.
The others are also being grieved by friends, family, and
their communities. Suncha Kim, 69, volunteered for charities.
Soon Chung Park, a former dancer, remained youthful and fit at
74. Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 49, was an entrepreneur who owned
Youngs Asian Massage and other businesses. Daoyou Feng, 44, was
one of her employees. Delaina Yaun, 33, was a new mother. Paul
Michels, 54, installed security systems. Hyun Jung Grant, 51,
loved music and worked at Gold Spa to support two sons.
Four of the women slain were of Korean descent, and leaders
of the Korean-American community held an online vigil in
Norcross to mourn their deaths and speak out against the huge
rise in violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus
Democratic state representative Sam Park said many community
members have been traumatized by the attacks, asking him, "Am I
"Do not be afraid," Park said during the vigil. "This is our
home, this is our country, and we will stand and fight to
protect our community, the vulnerable among us, and the next
generation. We must unequivocally condemn the racist political
rhetoric that put a target on the backs of our children,
parents, and members of the Asian-American community."
Yue, 63, was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S.
in 1979 with her then-husband, Mac Peterson. He was in the Army
and they moved to the Columbus area. Their older son, Elliott,
was born in South Korea, while their younger son, Robert, was
born after they moved to Georgia, said attorney BJay Pak, who is
representing Yue’s sons.
The couple divorced some time after their second son’s birth
and Yue made the tough decision for her boys to live with their
father, believing that would give them a better chance to
succeed, but she remained a loving presence in their lives, Pak
Elliott Peterson said his mother wasn’t very outwardly
affectionate but showed her love through food. She was selfless
and would be happy about the outpouring of support her sons have
received, he said.
Monica Baker, Peterson’s wife, recalled the first time she
met Yue, nervous and determined to make a good impression. She
fell in love with karaoke that night aided by the liquid courage
provided by the soju Yue poured for her, she said, drawing
Yue held a variety of jobs over the years, and had only
started working at Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta in October, Pak
said. She told her sons her job was to cook, clean, and watch
She lived alone with a dog and a cat and had a tight-knit
group of friends, Pak said.
Elliott Peterson, 42, served in the military and retired last
year. He said during the funeral that he’s so grateful he and
his children were able to spend two weeks visiting his mother in
Robert Peterson, 38, saw his mother frequently while doing
undergraduate studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta and then
went on to get a doctorate in medical sociology in Ohio, Pak
"As Bobby tells it, she used to brag to her friends, ‘Bobby’s
a doctor but not a medicine doctor, he’s a thinking doctor,’"
A funeral also was held for Tan, who owned the Cherokee
County spa. The service in nearby Marietta was private though a
video was posted online.
Tan’s ex-husband, Michael Webb, spoke about how she was
intent on showing him her country after they met in China in
2003. They travelled to small cities and villages, living among
the "kind and wonderful people of China," he said.
They later moved to the U.S., where she was determined to
work and become an American citizen, he said. She had a strong
work ethic and saved money to open her own businesses.
"Her customers became her friends and she would always bring
them gifts or homemade dumplings, which she would share with the
neighboring businesses," he said.
She put her daughter Jami through college, insisting that she
become an accountant, and passed along her work ethic and
kindness to her, Webb said.
"Sadly, Jami’s family in China wishes for Jami, a proud
American citizen, to return to China because they think it’s
just not safe here anymore, and who could blame them?" he said.
"This it the kind of example our country is setting for the rest
of the world."
A 21-year-old white man is accused of shooting five people,
killing four and injuring one, at Youngs Asian Massage in
Cherokee County. Police say he then drove 30 miles south to
Atlanta and shot three people at Gold Spa before going across
the street to Aromatherapy and shooting Yue. Seven of the slain
were women, six of Asian descent.
Associated Press writer R.J. Rico contributed to this report.
* * *
Slain spa worker toiled tirelessly to support
By Candice Choi and Russ Bynum
The Associated Press
March 20, 2021
ATLANTA (AP) — Hyun Jung Grant loved disco and club music,
often strutting or moonwalking while doing household chores and
jamming with her sons to tunes blasting in the car.
The single mother found ways to enjoy herself despite working
"almost every day" to support two sons, said the older son,
22-year-old Randy Park.
"I learned how to moonwalk because, like, I saw her
moonwalking while vacuuming when I was a kid," Park said.
On Tuesday night, Park was at home playing video games when
he heard a gunman had opened fire at the Atlanta massage
business where his mother worked. He rushed to the scene and
then to a police station to find out more information. But it
was through word of mouth that he learned his mother was dead.
Grant, 51, was among eight people killed by gunfire at three
Atlanta-area massage businesses. The Fulton County medical
examiner released her identity Friday along with those of three
other victims: Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae
Authorities in nearby Cherokee County had previously
identified the others as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre
Michels, 54; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Xiaojie Tan, 49, who owned one
of the massage businesses.
Seven of the slain were women, and six of them were of Asian
descent. Police charged a 21-year-old white man with the
killings, saying he was solely responsible for the deadliest
U.S. mass shooting since 2019.
The situation has been harrowing for Park, who said he has
not been able to claim his mother’s body from the medical
examiner’s office because of a complication with her last name,
which is legally Grant. Park said that name is from a marriage
he does not recall, and he can’t find papers showing a
separation to prove that he is the next of kin.
Authorities have said the perpetrator, who is charged with
eight counts of murder, told them he wasn’t motivated by race.
Park dismissed the idea that the shootings weren’t fuelled by
anti-Asian sentiment. Still, he said that his mother raised him
to believe that people are fundamentally good, though
"sometimes, things go horribly wrong."
It wasn’t immediately clear which of the Atlanta businesses
Her job was a sensitive subject, Park said, noting the stigma
often associated with massage businesses. She told her sons that
they should tell others she worked doing makeup with her
Ultimately, Park said, he didn’t care what she did for work.
"She loved me and my brother enough to work for us, to
dedicate her whole life," he said. "That’s enough."
Michels owned a business installing security systems, a trade
he learned after moving to the Atlanta area more than 25 years
He’d been talking about switching to a new line of work, but
never got the chance. He was fatally shot at Youngs Asian
Massage on Tuesday along with three others.
"From what I understand, he was at the spa that day doing
some work for them," said Michels’ younger brother, John Michels
of Commerce, Michigan.
Paul Michels also might have been talking with the spa’s
owner about how the business operates, his brother said, because
he had been thinking about opening a spa himself.
"His age caught up to him. You get to a point where you get
tired of climbing up and down ladders," John Michels said. "He
was actually looking to start his own massage spa. That’s what
he was talking about last year."
Paul Michels grew up in Detroit in a large family where he
was the seventh of nine children. His brother John was No. 8.
Though they were born 2 1/2 years apart, "he was basically my
twin," John Michels said. Both enlisted in the Army after high
school, with Paul joining the infantry.
A few years after leaving the military, Paul followed his
brother to the Atlanta area in 1995 for a job doing low-voltage
electrical work, installing phones and security systems. He also
met his wife, Bonnie, and they were married more than 20 years.
"He was a good, hardworking man who would do what he could do
to help people," John Michels said. "He’d loan you money if you
needed it sometimes. You never went away from his place hungry."
They day before she was killed, Yaun dropped by Rita Barron’s
boutique to say hello and show photos of her eight-month-old
"She told me, ‘I’m happy. I want another baby,’" said Barron,
who had gotten to know Yaun from eating at the Waffle House
where the new mother worked.
Yuan and her new husband returned Tuesday to the shopping
center where Gabby’s Boutique is located, only this time they
headed next door to Youngs Asian Massage. They had planned it as
a day for Yaun to relax while a relative watched their baby
Barron and her husband, Alejandro Acosta, heard gunshots from
inside the boutique and later noticed that a bullet had gone
through the wall. She called 911, and after police arrived
Acosta watched them bring people out of the business, some
bleeding and wounded. Among those who walked out was Yaun’s
husband, unhurt but distraught. His wife had been killed.
"As you can imagine, he’s totally destroyed, without
strength, doesn’t want to talk with anybody," said Acosta, who
added that he had spoken twice with Yaun’s husband since the
Family members said Yaun and her husband were first-time
customers at Youngs, eager for a chance to unwind.
"They’re innocent. They did nothing wrong," Yaun’s weeping
mother, Margaret Rushing, told WAGA-TV. "I just don’t understand
why he took my daughter."
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press
writer Michael Warren in Atlanta contributed to this report.
* * *
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #4 (April 5, 2021),
pages 8 & 12.
Daughter: Bystander disrupted attack on
By Michael R. Sisak
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The daughter of an Asian-American woman attacked
in New York City says a person not seen on surveillance video
helped the woman by screaming to distract her assailant while
others watched and did nothing to intervene.
Elizabeth Kari, writing on a fundraising webpage she set up
for her mother’s care, said the bystander was across the street
when a man accosted her 65-year-old mother, Vilma Kari, kicked
her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, and repeatedly
stomped on her face during the daytime in late March near Times
The person, who has remained anonymous, "yelled and screamed
to get the assailant’s attention," Elizabeth Kari wrote.
Fundraising service GoFundMe verified the authenticity of the
webpage. The Associated Press has been unable to reach the Karis
for comment; a message seeking an interview was left with
"I want to THANK YOU for stepping in and doing the right
thing," she wrote. "This gesture of action is what we need in
our world right now. I hope one day, my mom and I can thank you
Brandon Elliot, a 38-year-old parolee convicted of killing
his mother nearly two decades ago, was charged with assault and
attempted assault as hate crimes. His lawyers urged the public
to "reserve judgement until all the facts are presented in
The attack, among the latest in a national spike in
anti-Asian hate crimes, drew widespread condemnation and raised
alarms about what appeared to be the failure of bystanders to
help. Police said no one called 911 and that patrol officers
driving by came upon Kari after she was assaulted.
Vilma Kari, who emigrated from the Philippines several
decades ago, suffered serious injuries including a fractured
pelvis. She was discharged from the hospital a day after the
assault and is "safe and in good spirits," her daughter said.
"Although the healing process will not be easy, she has
always been a resilient role model for me," Elizabeth Kari
wrote. "We are hopeful that in time she will make a full
Vilma Kari was attacked outside a luxury apartment building
while walking to church. Her Facebook profile features a photo
showing St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Two workers in the building’s lobby were seen on surveillance
video watching the violence but doing nothing to help Kari. The
video shows one of the workers closing the building’s door as
she lay on the ground about 10 seconds after the attacker
started to walk away. The building’s management company said the
workers were suspended pending an investigation.
A widely seen snippet of the video ended as the attacker was
walking away from Kari. Her daughter wrote that the man was
crossing the street and heading toward the bystander who
screamed at him. That person has remained anonymous, she said.
The workers’ union, SEIU 32BJ, said the workers waited until
the attacker walked away to check on Kari and flag down a nearby
patrol car because they thought he had a knife.
A longer version of the surveillance video showed the
workers, identified by their union as doormen, waiting in the
lobby for more than a minute before going outside and
approaching Kari. About a minute after that, the video shows a
police car pulling up. The workers and officers are seen with
her on the sidewalk for several more minutes before the video
Elizabeth Kari wrote that aside from her care, her mother
wants to donate some of the fundraiser’s proceeds to support
other victims and help organizations that raise awareness and
work to prevent anti-Asian American hate crimes. Nearly $100,000
was raised in less than a day — far exceeding the goal of