Ten years ago, the Fourth of July was supposed to be like any other Independence Day in Bloomington.
But instead, former IU student Benjamin Nathaniel Smith capped off a string of racially motivated shootings that left IU graduate student Won-Joon Yoon dead.
It was July 4, 1999, and Yoon was walking to Sunday service at the Korean United Methodist Church when Smith opened fired, hitting Yoon twice in the back.
Smith’s shooting spree began July 2, 1999, in West Rogers Park, Ill., where he wounded six Orthodox Jews on their way home from services. From there, he drove to Skokie, Ill., where he shot and killed former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, an African American, as he walked with his two children. Smith wounded three others in Illinois before driving down to Bloomington.
After opening firing on Yoon, Smith fled toward Illinois, where he hijacked a van in Ina, Ill., and was pursued by police in Salem, Ill. Smith fired shots at himself and died later at a hospital.
And 10 years later, Pam Freeman, associate dean of students, said she still remembers how that Sunday morning felt. Freeman, who is also the director of the Student Ethics and Anti-Harassment programs at IU, said there was a lot of grief, sorrow and disbelief. But she said going through the motions, she didn’t know if there was anything else that the University could have done differently.
“It turns out quite a few people had tried to talk to him in his time,” Freeman said about Smith. “He believed what he believed. I think if anything it just strengthened our resolve to not become complacent.”
In honor of Yoon, there will be a service at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Korean United Methodist Church, 1920 E. Third St.
For complete coverage of the 10 year anniversary of the shooting spree, check out Monday’s IDS.
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