Local organizations are banding together to support the owners of longtime Evendale grocery Tokyo Foods, where a suspect recently fired through shop windows
Community members are raising funds for Tozan and Kimiko Matsuda. According to a Feb. 1 press release from Asianati, 31 local and state organizations have signed a statement of support for the Matsudas, who have run Tokyo Foods for more than three decades. The market primarily sells Japanese products and Asian groceries.
"Thankfully, the store was closed and the owners, Mr. & Mrs. Matsuda, were unharmed. However, their business was destroyed, and patrons and staff at neighboring Uncle Yips who witnessed the incident were traumatized. The perpetrator was arrested on site and is in custody for multiple felonious charges," the statement said. "Additionally last year, the Matsudas were burglarized during a local wave of home burglaries specifically targeting Asian/AsianAmerican/Pacific Islander (AAPI) business owners while they were at their stores or restaurants. The Matsudas lost many valuables and personal possessions."
At 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22, officers from the Evendale Police Department responded to a report of a shooting near 10700 Reading Road. According to a Jan. 31 press release, police arrested 33-year-old Daniel Beckjord at Evendale Plaza for allegedly firing a handgun at the windows of Tokyo Foods. The business is next to Uncle Yip's restaurant, which serves Asian cuisine. The date of the shooting was Lunar New Year, an event celebrated by millions of people in cultures around the world, but it's especially central to those in Asian cultures.
Police arrested Beckjord, and the suspect was held at Hamilton County Justice Center. On Jan. 31, a Hamilton County grand jury indicted Beckjord on two counts of vandalism, one count of inducing panic, and three counts of having weapons while under disability, police said. The grand jury did not indict Beckjord on five counts of felonious assault.
Beckjord could get 20 years in prison for the Tokyo Foods shooting alone, police said, but Beckjord has run into trouble before.
"In addition to these charges from the Grand Jury the suspect has outstanding cases in Hamilton County for an incident in July 2022. He also faces charges in Belmont County, Ohio where he was involved in a high- speed pursuit," police said. "The suspect also has an outstanding Burglary case in Gallatin County, Kentucky. In the Gallatin County incident, the subject used a firearm to shoot out the lock of the residence he burglarized. During all of these recent arrests the suspect either possessed or used a firearm during the incident. Search warrants in this investigation led to the seizure of 13 firearms, 2 bulletproof vests and numerous magazines and ammunition."
The organizations and nonprofits gathering support for the Matsudas – which largely include Asian and Pacific Islander groups such as the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati and the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati as well as faith and reproductive justice organizations – say that in addition to the Jan. 22 shooting, the Matsudas have endured home robberies, COVID-19 bouts and store supply shortages in recent years.
According to the GoFundMe page for the effort, which is being organized by Asianati co-founder Koji Sado, Tokyo Foods is the last Japanese grocery store in Greater Cincinnati.
"Even after everything they have gone through, the 93-year-old Mr. Matsuda still talks about the goodness in people, the community, and how he does not want to trouble others," Sado said on the page. "My hope is to raise enough funds for Mr. & Mrs. Matsuda to recover from these tragedies and to live the rest of their lives in peace. They've supported the community for 35 years, now it's our turn to support them."
Funds raised will go toward repairing damages and helping to pay rent and insurance costs at Tokyo Foods and will provide the Matsudas with assistance for basic living expenses, Sado said.
The 31 organizations that signed the statement of support also are calling for more awareness of the violence towards Asian community members that has been rising since the start of the pandemic.
"Stand with AAPI’s. Incidents of violence, abuse, profiling, and discrimination targeting AAPI communities since COVID-19 was discovered are alarmingly high. Such hate crimes cannot be tolerated. Join us in condemning all race-based attacks and harassment," the organizations wrote.
Violence toward people of Asian descent has increased since 2020, on top of the legacy of racism the United States has perpetuated for centuries. Many attribute the spike in anti-Asian violence to racist rhetoric like that which former U.S. President Donald Trump used during his tenure. Trump frequently referred to the coronavirus as “the China virus," “the Chinese virus” and even the "Kung Flu" because it reportedly had originated in Wuhan, China. Trump and many of his supporters – including sitting politicians – have continued to use such language.
In recent years, a number of Asian-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati have endured threats and vandalism. Moreover, in 2020, a University of Cincinnati student shared a screenshot of an email from engineering professor John Ucker that said, "For students testing positive for the Chinese virus, I will give no grade." In 2021, West Chester Township chairman Lee Wong passionately revealed the discrimination he'd faced over the years, even as a U.S. Army veteran.
In 2018, Cincinnati was among cities with the highest rate per capita of reported hate crimes in Ohio, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics. However, the U.S. Department of Justice says that a majority of hate crimes go unreported and that the number could be even higher.
On Jan. 31, the Evendale Police Department said that thus far, its investigation did not show that Tokyo Foods shooter Daniel Beckjord committed a hate crime.
"The suspect never offered a motive for the offense and that remains under investigation," the department said. "After searching two residences used by the suspect, two vehicles used by the suspect, as well as two cell phones belonging to the subject, no evidence was found that pointed towards an ethnic/cultural motivation or targeting in the Evendale incident."
But for the organizations that have signed the statement of support for the Matsudas, that doesn't matter. Helping a longtime community member does.
"Tokyo Foods and the Matsuda family cannot be made whole again. The trauma of such attacks will inevitably leave scars. We also know the burden of such ignorance and hate cannot be shouldered by only those who are subjected to it. We ask Cincinnati to stand united to show its support of Tokyo Foods and send a message that we do not tolerate hate," they said.
Donate to the GoFundMe for Tokyo Foods here.
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