Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to remove the name of the man who was allegedly falsely named.
A Korean American man is speaking out to expose a couple who allegedly harassed him and his two children while they were on vacation in New York’s Fire Island last week.
How it started: The incident, which was partly caught on a now-viral video, occurred around 1:40 p.m. on Aug. 18. Michael Kim, 42, and his sons, aged 9 and 5, were walking back from a hike to the Fire Island Lighthouse when they came across the couple, who allegedly harassed him because he was scolding his children.
On their way, Kim said his children started fighting and running in front of a moving PSE&G truck, which almost hit them. This left him terrified, so he started scolding his kids.
“I was completely shaken and yelled at them out of sheer terror,” Kim, a single father, told NextShark. “I stopped on the side of the road to scold them for misbehaving in such a dangerous manner.”
At that moment, the couple came by, stopped on their bicycles and allegedly demanded to speak to Kim. The father-of-two refused to talk to them “because I was busy dealing with a private family issue, which is my and every parent’s responsibility and right.”
Frustrated about not receiving attention, the woman then allegedly flagged down a Public Safety vehicle and told an officer inside that Kim was abusing his children. However, his kids quickly slammed the accusation.
“My older son immediately told the officer that the allegation was completely untrue. The public safety officer drove away without taking any action — because there was no reason to,” Kim said.
Recording the scene: The situation could have ended when the officer left, but the woman allegedly continued to harass the family. Kim said she tried stopping other people to join her and her companion in their harassment but to no avail. Moments later, the man allegedly stated “This isn’t China” and approached Kim in an “intimidating fashion.” This prompted him to film the scene.
“Due to the racist comment, the man’s large physical size [he’s about 6’2 and 200 pounds] and body language — and having to factor the safety of my two kids — I felt intimidated and threatened, so I pulled out my phone and began recording the both of them,” Kim, who stands 5’4 and weighs 125 pounds, told NextShark. “At that point, the man and woman’s aggressive demeanor immediately changed; they stopped approaching me, though they continued to harass me and my children.”
In the minute-long video, Kim can be heard telling the couple “Please leave me alone, you’re harassing me” 13 times. One of his kids is also heard demanding them to “stop.” The man, however, continued to question Kim about his employment. The woman allegedly told yet another couple passing by that she “thought (they) were trying to help.”
The woman can be heard asking Kim “Why are you here?” twice. She then told him to “go to another town” before they finally leave the family alone.
The aftermath: What should have been an enjoyable hike became a traumatizing experience for the family. It left Kim intimidated and upset, while his children ended up “crying out of fear.”
“I have dealt with unprovoked racism my whole life,” Kim told NextShark. “However, it’s a disgrace that my children had to experience their first vulgar taste of it while on vacation at such a young age.”
Kim has “zero doubt” that the couple wouldn’t harass them if he and his kids looked like them. He said he declined to report the incident to police because he does not want to traumatize his children any further.
“My kids are traumatized and keep asking me if the police will take me away, and why we don’t belong in that town because of her [racist ranting] telling us to leave. They love Fire Island but now they don’t want to return because they are uncomfortable and scared of what might happen to me [and in turn, them],” Kim said.
The 42-year-old soon posted the video on TikTok, where it received more than 397,000 views and was shared by @auntkaren0, whose commentary on the incident received over 589,000 views. In the comments, he said some users identified the woman as “Kate Shanley.”
Other users sent Kim supportive messages. “I live on Fire Island for part of the summer. I’ve always thought of it as a welcoming community. This disappointed me. I’m sorry this happened to you,” one wrote.
Responses: A Twitter user allegedly emailed Shanley and posted screenshots of her response, her take on what happened that day and addressed the comments she made in the video.
Shanley allegedly denied any racist intent, claimed that Kim was mentally abusing his children for half an hour and said it was “pure manipulation” that he tried to “paint this as Asian hate or racist [sic] or a racist event.”
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