Meet John White and Emery Kauanui

John White and Emery Kauanui

What do you do when confronted by a mob of drunk white guys? Ask John White or Emery Kauanui — each faced off with a such a mob and one came away dead, the other wearing handcuffs.

John White is in his 50s, married, has a 20-year-old son, works as an asphalt foreman, according to brotherpeacemaker, and lives in Miller Place in Suffolk County of New York.

Emery Kauanui, on the other hand, was the 24-year-old son of a successful modeling agency owner, raised in luxury in La Jolla, California, an up-and-coming professional surfer in his own right.

White, a black man, was convicted of manslaughter for what defense attorneys say was an accidental, but fatal, shooting of a white teenage boy who had come to his home with four other white teenage boys, threatening to kill his White’s son over a Myspace threat to rape a girl.

Emery died from brain injuries he sustained in what started as a fistfight over a spilled drink at a bar and ended in a beating, with Emery at the receiving end from at least three other men. Five men are now on trial, charged with Emery’s murder.

Photo of John White by Alejandra Villa of Newsday

In both cases, a group of drunk, white males are at your home, threatening violence. In one case, one member of the mob was wielding an aluminum baseball bat. What do you do?

In both cases, both men decided on confronting the mob. On one hand, I believe this was a stupid move — when did a mob ever respond to reason or even a threat of retaliation? But then again, you’re hardly thinking logically when you’ve just jumped out of bed or had some alcohol yourself, especially in adrenaline-charged situations. Plus, some might say that confrontation shows people that you are not afraid, and may make a mob back down. But would you bet your life on that?

Both cases are hard to grapple with. I agree on a few points with Daily Kos’ davefromqueens — something is up with the jury in the White case. But then again, White was convicted for manslaughter, not murder, a lesser charge. In the Kauanui case, what I don’t understand most is how local cops did not do something sooner:

At a party in La Jolla in the summer of 2002, [Seth] Cravens, then 17, was accused of punching Thomas Barrow in the head as many as 20 times, causing hearing loss and jaw damage. Barrow, also 17 at the time, was beaten after he came to the defense of a young woman Cravens allegedly had threatened to hit. A group of Cravens’ friends made sure nobody got in the way, trapping one would-be rescuer inside a car.”I remember trying to shield my head and thinking, ‘Don’t fight back.’ If I were to fight back I’d have 10 people on me,” Barrow recalls.

Barrow’s mom, Clare, was horrified when she saw his bruised and lumpy face. “It’s a very helpless feeling when you see that your child has been beaten up like that,” she says.

She and her husband began talking to witnesses. “My son was not the first,” she says.

The family pressed charges, and the San Diego County probation department recommended that Cravens be prosecuted in juvenile court. His parents, however, sent him to live with relatives in Hawaii. The Barrows say prosecutors explained that they didn’t press ahead because Cravens no longer was a threat to San Diego residents.

Cravens’ parents had hoped he’d mellow after a year in the islands. He didn’t. Court documents allege he was involved in at least five beatings by the time he and some friends showed up uninvited last fall at a small party thrown by Libby Schneider, 16.

When Libby asked the 6-foot, 220-pound Cravens to leave, he allegedly landed a glancing blow on her chin that left a welt and then slugged the tearful girl in the chest.

Libby’s dad, David Blende, confronted Cravens’ father on the phone. “I told him I thought his son was out of control,” Blende later recalled for police. “He was polite and apologized. I got the impression he had heard these reports before about his son and was kind of at wit’s end.”

In the White case, John White is unique from most race-related killings for expressing remorse — on the record.

“I am not inhuman,” he said yesterday outside his Miller Place home. “I have a very deep feeling for this young man and his family.”

And on the stand:

“I didn’t mean to shoot this young man,” White, 54, said, sobbing as he stood before a Riverhead jury. “This young man was another child of God.”

Ugh, these cases make me worry. They really hit me hard because I am Filipino, my husband is black and we live in a predominantly white area. And I know that even if we were to move to a predominantly black area or a predominantly Asian/Filipino area, we would still stick out. I realize that these incidents are relatively rare, but does being different (i.e. not white) really make you that big a target?

In the Emery Kauanui case, I don’t know for sure if being Hawaiian really played that big a role in the ultimate blow up. But when you think about it, how much does race color a person’s perception? Seth Cravens, with his history of problems, is said to have taken the final swing to Kauanui’s head, which slammed to the ground. How much of Cravens’ rage is simply him and how much ignited by the sight of a successful Kauanui, dancing with his white girlfriend?

I don’t know if there’s really a proper way to end this post. There’s really nothing I can say to summarize my thoughts succinctly. I do not care to live in fear because of who I love. I guess the only thing I can do is continue to watch and pray.

2 thoughts on “Meet John White and Emery Kauanui

  1. anita

    I disagree. You have no right – just go and shoot people just because they tell you something you do not want to hear…Guess what happens when a white cop kills some black dude …What you think the cop does not feel unsafe?

    This man should get more behind the bars! HE KILLED A HUMAN BEING. He should call the police – anything. This is not right…

  2. JEAN

    first of all; seth Craven is Samoan, Osuna is Mexican, Emery is Hawaian ; who speakss about white boys and Emery called Eric house on the phone and asked him to fight
    Get your facts

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