Following the shootings of Karma Tamang on July 21, 2012 and Mon Bahadur Bhujel on August 26, 2012 in Akron, Ohio, members of the refugee community have been very concerned for their safety. The International Institute of Akron (IIA) arranged meetings on July 25, 2012 and August 29, 2012 with several representatives of the Akron Police Department to discuss the situation with local refugee communities. Bhim Dhungana and Kukupaw Lynn served as interpreters for Nepali and Burmese, respectively.
Late on the night of July 21, 2012, Karma Tamang, dressed in a green shirt and dark jeans, was returning home in his car when he was shot in the face by an unknown gunman. To his family, friends, and neighbors, Karma was known as a kind man whose loss will be felt deeply by everyone, and particularly by his wife and three children. After living for 20 years in the Beldangi-2 refugee camp with over 20,000 other exiles from Bhutan, Karma survived in a bamboo hut without running water, electricity, or sanitary facilities. He finally achieved the dream of living in the land of freedom and hope, only to be murdered as he was sitting in his car.
Captain Simcos said that the police were striving to protect all the people of North Hill, and they need help from all citizens. He acknowledged that this is the second major crime against the refugee community this summer, and that identifying the attackers is the police's top priority.
Policeman Dan Postor asked citizens to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity. When you call, the police will have your phone number and address if you call from a land line; however, if you call from a cell phone, you will need to tell them the number and street where you observed the suspicious activity.
The police said that these crimes were gang related and had to do with the gangs establishing their territory. In the past year, 168 gang members have been arrested. The police are serious about getting rid of the gangs.
Bhakta Ghimire said that "When we were in Nepal we never had this criminal problem. We didn't have any protection but also we never got any harm. When we moved to America we expected American government to protect us from everything, but this is the second crime this summer in our community. "
Ms. Rebecca Jenkins from the International Institute of Akron talked about whether or not it was a good idea to have a gun for self-protection. She said there were many laws about owning and using guns and while you have a right to buy a gun, if you are found in violation of any gun laws, you could be deported. She said "Everybody wants you to be safe and able to stay legally in the United States."
Gang members target immigrants and refugees because they know that they are often afraid to call the police, and because many of them do not speak fluent English. In the United States the police really want to help people and protect them. Officer Jerry Hughes said to be very careful about putting any personal information on Facebook because gang members look at Facebook.
Captain Sylvia Trundle said that almost all of the murders in Akron have been related to drugs or domestic violence. She said that crimes like these are sometimes a "rite of passage" for new gang members who have to prove themselves by committing an egregious, serious crime.
Selected activities of BCAA members are chronicled in this blog by Terry Kuhn.