The Bloomingtonian

Commentary: We should not forget

Twenty years ago yesterday, July 4, 1999, as a young photojournalist only a couple years out of journalism school I was called on my day off, the 4th of July, the day America celebrates freedom from tyranny, to go to the Korean United Methodist Church. Something bad had happened there, but the former sports editor of the paper who had called it in was not sure, but there were police, and police tape.

I was framing a photography show, but immediately grabbed my cameras, headed out the door and rushed across town.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure what I was photographing at first.

There were a lot of police, and I soon learned that a young South Korean Indiana University student, Won-Joon Yoon, had been gunned down on the lawn of the church.

This was the beginning of several days of coverage, and the story was on the front page of the New York Times for the next three days as the national media descended on this college town, Bloomington, Indiana.

However, nobody knew where the gunman had gone, and so I headed to the 4th of July parade. The police were heavily present at the parade, and I was looking over my shoulder, like everybody that day.

I later learned the shooter was a man named Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, and he had been on a killing spree in the Midwest that also left Ricky Byrdsong, a former basketball coach, dead. I later went to the newspaper, and we published an Extra edition, and learned later the shooter had died during a police pursuit that led into the heartland of Illinois.

The shooter was not unknown in Bloomington. As a matter of fact he’d been distributing hate literature, and had been a student at IU.

The name of his hate organization isn’t even worth mentioning, but what is worth mentioning is that before he killed he was indoctrinated by hatred. We should not forget it.

Written by Jeremy Hogan, Bloomington, Ind., July 5, 2019

Flowers cover a marker, where Indiana University student Won-Joon Yoon was gunned down by a white supremacist at the Korean United Methodist Church on Third Street twenty years ago on July 4, 1999, Friday, July 5, 2019 in Bloomington, Ind. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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