Philadelphia police Thursday night said they had identified a 79-year-old woman as a person of interest in sending a letter threatening to shoot residents of Cambodian descent because of fireworks being set off at a South Philadelphia park.
The woman, who was not named, “claimed to be the author of the letter,” the Police Department said in an emailed statement. The case has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, police said.
In the one-page letter sent to the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, the author claimed to have served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and was having trouble sleeping because residents of Cambodian descent were igniting fireworks at Mifflin Square Park. The writer claimed to own several guns.
The letter, which police described as typed, states: “I want to take a gun and go down there and kill these individuals. … I am writing you to let you know when I do freak out and try to kill these people that it is your fault for not going to them and encouraging them (it is in their best interest) to stop doing this and remain alive!”
A preliminary investigation by detectives determined that the 79-year-old woman was never a Marine nor did she own any guns, police said.
The letter was dated June 30 and sent by mail but was not opened until July 5 because of the Independence Day holiday weekend.
Police were called late Monday morning and began an investigation. The woman was located on Wednesday, police said.
A representative for the Cambodian association could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
“We take this threat very seriously, especially with the ongoing anti-Asian hate and violence,” Nak Chhoeung, board president of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, said in a July 5 letter posted on Facebook.
The association has said it plans to address the incident during a news conference at 3 p.m. Friday at the park at 500 Wolf St. The death-threat letter was also reported to other investigative agencies, the association said.
Violence against people of Asian descent rose during the pandemic, especially after former President Donald Trump insisted on repeatedly calling the coronavirus the “China virus” because the first reported cases were in China.