Killing of Yoshihiro Hattori

(Redirected from Death of Yoshihiro Hattori)

Yoshihiro Hattori (服部 剛丈, Hattori Yoshihiro, November 22, 1975 – October 17, 1992, often referred to as Yoshi Hattori[4]) was a Japanese student on an exchange program to the United States who was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The shooting happened when Hattori, on his way to a Halloween party, went to the wrong house by mistake. Property owner Rodney Peairs (/prz/)[5] fatally shot Hattori, thinking that he was trespassing with criminal intent. The killing and Peairs' acquittal received worldwide attention.

Killing of Yoshihiro Hattori
Yoshihiro Hattori in San Francisco.jpg
Hattori in San Francisco
LocationBaton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
DateOctober 17, 1992; 30 years ago (1992-10-17)
Attack type
Child homicide by shooting
Weapon.44 Magnum revolver
VictimYoshihiro Hattori (服部 剛丈), aged 16
MotiveErroneous belief that Hattori was trespassing with criminal intent; possibly racism[1][2][3]
AccusedRodney Peairs
VerdictNot guilty
LitigationPeairs found liable in civil trial, ordered to pay US$650,000 to Hattori's parents in damages

Hattori's early lifeEdit

Yoshihiro Hattori was born in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, the second of the three children of Masaichi Hattori, an engineer, and his wife Mieko Hattori.[6] He was 16 years old when he went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States, in August 1992 as part of the American Field Service (AFS) student exchange program; he had also received a scholarship from the Morita Foundation for his trip. Hattori was hosted as a homestay student in Baton Rouge by Richard and Holley Haymaker (a college professor and a physician, respectively) and their teenage son, Webb.[7]


Two months into his stay in the U.S., Hattori and his homestay brother Webb Haymaker received an invitation to a Halloween party on October 17, 1992, organized for Japanese exchange students. Hattori went dressed in a white tuxedo in imitation of John Travolta's character in the film Saturday Night Fever. At about 8 p.m., Haymaker and Hattori drove to the neighborhood in East Baton Rouge Parish where the party was being held. The two youths mistook the residence of Rodney Peairs, a 30-year-old supermarket butcher,[8] and his wife Bonnie Peairs, for their intended destination due to the similarity of the address and the Halloween decorations on the outside of the house.[9][10]

Hattori and Haymaker walked to the house's front door and rang the doorbell. Nobody came to the front door, but Bonnie Peairs opened the side door leading to the carport and saw Haymaker standing a few yards away. Haymaker was wearing a neck brace due to a recent injury and bandages as part of a Halloween costume. He attempted to address Bonnie Peairs, but she later testified that she panicked when Hattori appeared from around the corner and moved briskly towards her. She slammed the door and told her husband Rodney to get his gun.[5]

Outside, Haymaker inferred that he and Hattori had come to the wrong house. They were preparing to return to their car when Rodney Peairs opened the carport door, armed with a .44 Magnum revolver. Hattori stepped back towards Peairs, saying, "We're here for the party." Peairs pointed the gun at him and yelled, "Freeze!" Haymaker had caught sight of the firearm and shouted a warning after Hattori,[11] but Hattori had limited English and was not wearing his contact lenses that evening; it is possible that he did not understand Peairs' command to "freeze"[12] and did not see the weapon,[5] or might even have thought that this was part of a Halloween prank.[13] Hattori was also holding a camera which Peairs mistook for a weapon.[12] When Hattori continued moving towards Peairs, Peairs fired his gun at him from a distance of about 5 feet (1.5 m) away, hitting him in the chest, and then retreated back inside the house. Haymaker ran to the home next door for help, returning with a neighbor to find Hattori badly wounded and lying on his back. The Peairses did not come out of their house until the police arrived about forty minutes after the shooting. Bonnie Peairs shouted to a neighbor to "go away" when the neighbor called for help.[5]

The shot pierced the upper and lower lobes of Hattori's left lung and exited through the area of the seventh rib; he died in an ambulance minutes later from blood loss.[10]

Legal proceedingsEdit

Criminal trial of Rodney PeairsEdit

Initially, the Baton Rouge Police Department quickly questioned and released Rodney Peairs and declined to charge him with any crime because—in their view—Peairs had been "within his rights in shooting the trespasser".[6] Only after Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards and the Japanese consul in New Orleans protested was Peairs charged with manslaughter.

Peairs's defense was his claim that Hattori had an "extremely unusual manner of moving" that any reasonable person would find "scary". It emphasized that Peairs was an "average Joe", a man just like the jury members' neighbors, a man who "liked sugar in his grits".[14]

At trial, Peairs testified about the moment just before the shooting: "It was a person, coming from behind the car, moving real fast. At that point, I pointed the gun and hollered, 'Freeze!' The person kept coming toward me, moving very erratically. At that time, I hollered for him to stop. He didn't; he kept moving forward. I remember him laughing. I was scared to death. This person was not gonna stop, he was gonna do harm to me." Peairs testified that he shot Hattori once in the chest when the youth was about 5 feet (1.5 m) away. "I felt I had no choice," he said. "I'm very sorry that any of this ever happened."[5] A police detective testified that Peairs had said to him, "Boy, I messed up; I made a mistake."[15]

District Attorney Doug Moreau concentrated on establishing that it had not been reasonable for Peairs, a 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) tall, armed man, to be so fearful of a polite, friendly, unarmed, 130-pound (59 kg) boy who rang the doorbell, even if he walked toward him unexpectedly in the carport, and that Peairs was not justified in using deadly force.[citation needed]

The defense further argued that Rodney Peairs was, in large part, reacting reasonably to his wife's panic. Bonnie Peairs testified for an hour about the incident, during which she also cried several times. "He [Hattori] was coming real fast towards me," she testified. "I had never had somebody come at me like that before. I was terrified." Rodney Peairs did not hesitate or question her but instead went to retrieve a handgun with a laser sight stored in a suitcase in the bedroom.[5] "There was no thinking involved. I wish I could have thought. If I could have just thought," Bonnie Peairs said.[13] While giving a description of Hattori at the trial, Bonnie Peairs said, "I guess he appeared Oriental. He could have been Mexican or whatever. He was taller than me and his skin was darker colored."[1][2][3]

The trial lasted seven days. The jury returned a not guilty verdict after deliberating for approximately three hours.[a] Courtroom spectators applauded when the verdict was announced.[12]

Civil trialEdit

In a later civil action, however, the court found Rodney Peairs liable to Hattori's parents for US$650,000 in damages,[16] which they used to establish two charitable funds in their son's name; one to fund U.S. high school students wishing to visit Japan, and one to fund organizations that lobby for gun control.[17]

The lawyers for Hattori's parents argued that the Peairses had acted unreasonably: Bonnie Peairs overreacted to the presence of two teens outside her house; the couple behaved unreasonably by not communicating with each other to convey what exactly the perceived threat was; they had not taken the best path to safety—remaining inside the house and calling the police; they had erred in taking offensive action rather than defensive action; and Rodney Peairs had used his firearm too quickly, without assessing the situation, firing a warning shot, or shooting to wound. Furthermore, the much larger Peairs could easily have subdued the short, slightly built Hattori. Contrary to Rodney Peairs's claim that Hattori was moving strangely and quickly towards him, forensic evidence demonstrates that Hattori was moving slowly, or not at all, and his arms were away from his body, indicating he was no threat. Overall, a far greater show of force was used than was appropriate.[6]

The Peairses appealed the decision, but the Louisiana Court of Appeals upheld the judgment in October 1995,[11] and a second appeal to the Supreme Court of Louisiana was rejected in January 1996.[18] Of the total US$650,000 judgment, Rodney Peairs's insurance company paid US$100,000 while Peairs himself was technically left responsible for paying the remaining US$550,000.[19]


After the trial, Peairs told the press that he would never again own a gun.[20] A 2013 source reported that he had lost his home and his supermarket job following the shooting and was living in a trailer park.[19]

The Japanese public were shocked by the killing and by Peairs's acquittal.[21] Hattori's parents and his American host parents, the Haymakers, went on to become active campaigners for gun law reform in the U.S.[22][23] In November 1993 they met with President Bill Clinton, who was presented with a petition signed by 1.7 million Japanese citizens urging stronger gun control. A petition signed by 120,000 American citizens was also presented to Congress.[24] The Hattoris and the Haymakers lent their support to the Brady Bill (originally introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991), which mandated background checks and a five-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms in the U.S.[25] It was signed into law by President Clinton on November 30, 1993, as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.[26] According to Walter Mondale, then U.S. ambassador to Japan, who presented Hattori's parents with a copy of the Act on December 3, 1993,[27] Hattori's death "had a very definite impact on passage of the Brady bill."[28][b] The Hattori and Haymaker families remained active in gun control activism. In March 2018, following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the Hattoris participated in the March For our Lives and spoke with survivors.[30]

Following the killing, some argued that had Hattori been white, Bonnie Peairs may have not reacted the way she did. The Haymakers stated in an interview following the trial that had Hattori been white, they believed he would have never been killed, noting that Bonnie Peairs said that she first noticed that Hattori was "darker colored" than her. Some in Baton Rouge had said that Bonnie Peairs was frightened because she believed that Hattori was a light-skinned black man. Bonnie Peairs rejected notions that her reaction had been racially motivated, stating that, " was his fast movement toward that door that scared me so bad, not the color of his skin."[1][2][3]

In 1997, filmmaker Christine Choy released a documentary film about Hattori's death called The Shot Heard Round The World.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ According to The New York Times, the jury deliberated for "just over three hours",[5] whereas The Washington Post reported that the jury returned its verdict in "less than three hours."[12]
  2. ^ Had the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act been in effect prior to Hattori's death, it likely would not have prevented his shooting, as its provisions would not have stopped the sale of the licensed handgun that killed him.[29]


  1. ^ a b c GET THE GUN! in Baton Rouge (1/3), retrieved October 24, 2022
  2. ^ a b c Schimke, David. "Each Other's Arms". Voice. Retrieved October 24, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Lee, Cynthia (October 2007). Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-5116-9.
  4. ^ Hurst, Daniel (March 22, 2018). "How the mother of Japanese student shot dead became a force for US gun reform". The Guardian.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Acquittal in Doorstep Killing of Japanese Student". The New York Times. May 24, 1993.
  6. ^ a b c Ressler, Robert K.; Shachtman, Tom (1997). "A Case of More Than Mistaken Identity". I Have Lived in the Monster. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 31–44. ISBN 0312155522.
  7. ^ Nossiter, Adam (October 23, 1992). "Student's Trust in People Proved Fatal". New York Times.
  8. ^ "Grief Spans Sea as Gun Ends a Life Mistakenly". The New York Times. October 21, 1992.
  9. ^ "Homeowner testifies in shooting death of Japanese exchange student". UPI. May 22, 1993. Archived from the original on March 6, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Liu, J. Harper. "Two deaths, no justice". Goldsea. Retrieved December 29, 2005.
  11. ^ a b Hattori v. Peairs, 662 So. 2d 509 (Louisiana Court of Appeal October 6, 1995) ("The shooting attracted national, as well as international attention. Following a four-day trial on September 12–15, 1994, the trial judge rendered judgment in favor of Yoshi's parents, Masaichi and Mieko Hattori (the Hattoris) finding Rodney Peairs to be solidarily liable with his homeowner's insurer, Louisiana Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Farm Bureau), in the amount of $653,077.85 together with legal interest and costs. Farm Bureau's liability was subject to the $100,000.00 coverage limitations of its policy.
    While we do not doubt that Rodney Peairs' fear of impending bodily harm was genuine, we nevertheless find nothing within the record to support his assertion that such fear was reasonable. Prior to the shooting, Yoshi and Webb had announced their presence by ringing the doorbell of the Peairs' home. Testifying that he believed Yoshi to be armed, Rodney Peairs conceded that he did not see a gun, a knife, a stick, or a club— only an object which he later ascertained to be a camera. In the well-lit carport, Rodney Peairs stated that he observed an oriental person proceeding towards him and that he appeared to be laughing. We have no idea why Yoshi failed to heed Rodney Peairs' order to "Freeze," or grasp the danger posed by the gun, but can only speculate that the answer stems from cultural differences and an unfamiliarity with American slang. Under the circumstances of this case, we cannot say that it was either reasonable or necessary for Rodney Peairs to resort to the use of deadly force in order to protect himself and his family.").
  12. ^ a b c d Booth, William (May 24, 1993). "Man Acquitted of Killing Japanese Exchange Student". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 16, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Tucker, Cynthia (May 29, 1993). "A tragic shooting no slogan explains". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 12A. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  14. ^ "Defense Depicts Japanese Boy as 'Scary'". The New York Times. May 21, 1993.
  15. ^ "Feared Japanese Teen-Ager, Slaying Suspect Says". L.A. Times. May 23, 1993. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  16. ^ Nossiter, Adam (September 16, 1994). "Judge Awards Damages In Japanese Youth's Death". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Blakeman, Karen (2000). "Japanese couple joins anti-gun fight in U.S." Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on December 2, 2005. Retrieved December 29, 2005.
  18. ^ Hattori v. Peairs, 666 So. 2d 322 (Supreme Court of Louisiana January 12, 1996) ("Denied.").
  19. ^ a b Boyes-Watson, Carolyn (2018). Crime and Justice: Learning through Cases. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 119. ISBN 9781538106914.
  20. ^ "Acquittal in Doorstep Killing of Japanese Student". The New York Times. May 24, 1993. p. 1. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  21. ^ Watanabe, Teresa (May 25, 1993). "Japanese Angered by U.S. Acquittal of Student's Killer". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016.
  22. ^ Kernodle, Katrina (2002). "Gun Stance Highlights Cultural Gap between U.S. and Japan". Frances Kernodle Associates. Archived from the original on September 20, 2005. Retrieved December 30, 2005.
  23. ^ Stewart, Robert (April 24, 2013). "Crump, Haymaker to receive Baton Rouge humanitarian award". The Advocate. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018.
  24. ^ "Clinton Meets Parents of Slain Japanese Student". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. November 17, 1993. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017.
  25. ^ Golen, Jimmy (December 27, 1993). "'Everyday' Crime Makes La. Headlines in '93". Daily World. Opelousas, Louisiana. p. 2 – via
  26. ^ "Timeline of the Brady Bill's Passage". Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Archived from the original on April 22, 2018. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  27. ^ Reischauer, Edwin O. (1994). "The United States and Japan in 1994: Uncertain Prospects". Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. Archived from the original on April 4, 1997. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  28. ^ Reid, T.R. (March 28, 1994). "Japan warns about travel to U.S. after 2 shot in LA carjacking". Indianapolis Star. p. A3 – via
  29. ^ Novak, Robert (July 13, 1993). "Leaders aren't in lockstep". Marshfield News-Herald. p. 4A – via
  30. ^ "Yoshihiro Hattori: The door knock that killed a Japanese teenager in US". BBC News. October 19, 2019. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  31. ^ "The Shot Heard Round The World (1997)". Alexander Street Press. Retrieved March 9, 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Kamo, Yoshinori (1993). Amerika o aishita shonen: "Hattori Yoshihiro-kun shasatsu jiken" saiban. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha. ISBN 4-06-206719-6. The book is also known as A Japanese Boy Who Loved America: The Trial of Yoshi Hattori Shooting in Baton Rouge.
  • Hiragi, Katsumi; Talley, Tim (1993). Furizu: Piazu wa naze Hattori-kun o utta no ka. Japan: Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-775168-6. The book is also known as Freeze.
  • Bandō, Hiromi; Hattori, Mieko (1996). "Beyond Guns, Beyond Ourselves". Stop Gun Caravan. Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit