Remembering Latasha Harlins, who was shot and killed 30 years ago by a store owner in South LA

In 1991, 15 -year-old Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a convenience store owner named Soon Ja Du. Video by National Geographic.

In spring 1992, South Central Los Angeles was on fire for nearly a week. The uprisings were sparked by the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King. 

But tensions were growing for a long time before that — not only between cops and residents but between Black residents and Korean American shop owners. That crystallized in 1991 when a 15 -year-old girl named Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a convenience store owner named Soon Ja Du. 

Former LAPD Commander Michael Bostic talked about it then: “She had the money in her hand. You could see the money in the video tape. And the suspect grabbed the backpack, and there became a physical altercation over the backpack. And as our victim turned to walk away from the scene, the suspect raised a weapon and shot the victim in the back of the head.”

Latasha Harlins would have turned 45 this year on January 1. On that day, a mural featuring her portrait was unveiled. It’s on the front of the Sutton Recreation Center on Hoover Street where she used to hang out.

Credits

Guest:
Brenda Stevenson - professor of history and African American studies at UCLA; author of “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots” - @uclahist

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Angie Perrin, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Bennett Purser