A 57-year-old man who took a Buena Park bank employee hostage and was shot in the stomach in a standoff with SWAT officers has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The attorney and family of Myung Jae Kim begged for probation only, pointing to the punishment he has endured in needing two colostomy bags following the shooting. But Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Cassidy only shaved four years off the maximum punishment of 28 years on Friday. Senior Deputy District Attorney John Christl had argued the police bullets were meant to protect the innocent people in the bank, so the defendant had not yet been punished.
The owner of a water purification company, Kim lost about $235,000 in cash that he put in a safety deposit box of Hanmi Bank in Garden Grove in 2007. He filed a report with police in that city but was told a year later the case was closed. The bank's own investigation cleared its employees and suggested Kim's wife might have taken the money.
Over the years Kim would call Michelle Kwon, who worked at Hanmi Bank but had nothing to do with the safety deposit box, about the status of the case. This continued after Kwon moved over to Saehan Bank in Buena Park. That's where Kim went on March 1, 2012, holding a white box that looked so innocuous a security guard held the door open for him. Actually, a knife, pipe bomb and sawed-off shotgun were inside as Kim had come for revenge.
There he held Kwon hostage for nearly four hours, never directly threatening to kill her but, according to Christi, Kim did say he would shoot off her legs. A SWAT officer took a shot at Kim from across the street but the round clanked off a metal railing. Three SWAT officers eventually stormed the bank, leading to Kim being shot in the stomach. He fired a round at Kwon but missed. No one else was injured.
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He was convicted April 11 of assault with a firearm, false imprisonment, three counts of assault on a peace officer, possession of a destructive device in a public place, possession of a destructive device for intimidation or injury and making criminal threats. Sentence-enhancing allegations of use of a deadly weapon and the personal use of a firearm were found true. But jurors rejected another sentence-enhancement allegation that he intentionally fired a weapon and acquitted Kim of attempted murder, which spared him the possibility of getting 50 years to life in state prison.
Kim must do 85 percent of his time behind bars, said Christl, who noted that while the defendant's family and friends were in court to support him at sentencing, Kwon skipped the hearing.
"She was very fearful of him, very traumatized," Christl told City News Service. "She wanted away from that man."