This past weekend marked a tragic day in both Filipino American and Los Angeles history. 20 years ago, in 1999, a mass shooter took the life of a Filipino American postal worker — who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On August 10, 1999, a white supremacist went on a shooting spree at a Northridge synagogue, injuring five people. The incident led to a manhunt in Las Vegas, and a life sentence for the shooter. But along the way, one man was killed: Filipino American postal worker Joseph Ileto.
20 years later, the wounds have yet to fully heal, and the shock still stings for Ileto’s family.
“Our kuya had no enemies, he was the nicest person you can imagine and he was admired and he had lots of friends, no enemies at all what so ever… so when they came to my door I was stunned, I was speechless, I was shocked,” said his sister in law Deena Ileto.
The Ileto family and community members remembered Ileto with a vigil at the mural in his honor outside the LA office of the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“It really touch my heart, I’m so honored about this one, and I don’t know how to thank you all,” said Lilian Ileto, his mother.
“Thank you all for coming today we commemorate we grieve but tomorrow we organize. We organize against hate. We organize against white supremacy. We organize to remember Joseph,” said Stuart Kwon from AAAJ.
The incident eventually paved the way for some gun control legislation, and those scared by the memory of 20 years ago, hope the recent and rampant shootings that happen too often nowadays can also be a catalyst for serious change.
“The gun violence, we hope we can get some people in Congress that can change the laws. Background checks, simple background checks, we’re not asking to take the guns away we’re just asking to make it not as easy and to increase our chances of not getting shot,” said Ish Ileto.
The recent mass shooting incidents continue to bring back horrific memories for the Ileto family.
But they’ve pledged to dedicate their lives to stopping hate.
“Every time we hear of a mass shooting, every time we hear of hate crime, it takes us back to that day so its never far from us especially these days. Especially what happened in El Paso Texas when the shooter targeted Latino people. My brother was received to be Latino or a chink as the killer said so it brings us back to that day.”
For the Iletos, who faced more backlash from hate groups, following the 1999 incident, they said the only way gun violence will end is if everyone in the community takes a stand against it.
“It made us want to work harder to reach out to the communities and the students to build a better and stronger and safer community for every because it’s happening more and more.”
“Join our struggle, educate, prevent hate, and you can break that down join our struggle. You have to work with everyone.”
It’s a struggle that continues to this day.