TACOMA, Wash. - The Tacoma Police Department is looking for suspects involved in an attack on the grounds of the Khmer Theravadin Buddhist Association temple. Graphic cellphone video shows two of the temple’s members being beaten the night of Sept. 21.
Speaking in Cambodian, 67-year-old Ngunuon Huon said she was the woman seen in the cellphone video on the ground trying to fight off her assaulters. Sinuon Hem, an interpreter, helped Huon tell her story as she grabbed her neck recalling the terrifying night.
"Choke my throat and the other woman twist my leg and make me fall down to the ground and keep kicking and stomping at my body and use the cutting knife to poke on my ribs," interpreted Hem for Huon.
Huon, a nun at the temple, said she was still in pain. She said the attack started after she noticed people using chain cutters on the property’s fence. When Huon approached the people asking them to stop, she said two women began beating her.
"My rib is so much in pain when I’m breathing, I’m scared, I’m shaking and nervous," interpreted Hem for Huon.
Temple elder, 80-year-old Victor Tang, is seen in the cellphone video jumping in to help fight off Huon’s attackers. It has been several days since the incident, but Tang was still full of emotion as he wept telling his story.
"The man that was there with the hammer and the scissor chain cutter used it to poke him with it, push him down and punch him and beat up on him," interpreted Hem for Tang. "These people are harassing and making trouble, cutting the fence and bringing people in."
The temple, located at 1420 E 44th St. in Tacoma, rents to two tenants on the property. Members said they have been nothing but trouble since moving in. Tacoma police confirmed one of the tenants, a 53-year-old woman, was arrested for the assault.
Abbot Chea Poeuv, leader and monk of the temple, said harassment has been ongoing on the property. He said their two tenants are bringing multiple "squatters" around. Without the temple’s permission, Poeuv said the unknown people have abandoned their cars, damaged the building and some have even parked their trailers.
"The monk and the nuns-- they are very scared of them. And this incident—they continue to keep cutting the fence and cutting the chains to the fence constantly," interpreted Hem for Poeuv.
Tacoma police said they are still looking for a male suspect in the attack and will continue investigating.
"Would like to get support from all authority to help protect the temple and respect our Buddhist religion. I’m having a very difficult time to deal with this kind of hatred and harassment towards our Buddhist religion at the temple and abused by the people that we do not know," interpreted Hem for Poeuv.
Tacoma police said there is also a landlord-tenant issue happening at the temple. A spokesperson explained it’s a landlord-tenant issue, "due to the rental agreements that were in place at one point on the property. As such, it is not a criminal issue and the law does not view the people as ‘squatters’ but as tenants. Therefore all landlord/tenant laws apply and the proper eviction process must be followed. We recognize that people are concerned, however, we have to ensure all laws are followed."
Temple members said their concern is the harassment will continue and they want to see more help from police and the city.
"Don’t know why they’re staying there and they need these people to get out," interpreted Hem for Poeuv. "They have very much sleepless nights. Every night they are worried for their life."
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