A Korean American adoptee from Chicago has been charged with involuntary manslaughter following a racially-motivated fight that occurred during the Fourth of July weekend, according to news reports.
James Kieffer Malecek, 19, allegedly punched Kevin Kennelly Jr., 17, on a beach at the posh lakeside community of Long Beach, Ind., about 45 miles from Chicago. The fight, according to witnesses, started after Kennelly’s friends began harassing Malecek’s 16-year-old sister, also Korean, about her red, white and blue bandanna.
Locals say Malecek was reacting to another youth’s comment that his sister should not be wearing the patriotic bandanna, according to the NY Times.
Kevin Kennelly reportedly was trying to separate Mr. Malecek and another youth when he was punched. He lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital, where he was put on life support and died on July 6 from blunt-force trauma to the head. Mr. Malecek turned himself in to LaPorte, Ind., police the next day. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and battery, released on $25,000 bail and later pleaded not guilty.
Malecek is due back in court on Sept. 1, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
Neighbors described the 19-year-old would-be college freshman, who goes by “Jake,” as friendly and helpful.
“Jake is a great kid from a wonderful family,” neighbor Cathleen Casey-Romo told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I’m sorry for the family. My heart goes out to them. I live with my father, who’s been very ill, and Jake and his family have been very supportive.”
Romo said Malecek played hockey and golf and is “very athletic.”
Said another neighbor: “I’m shocked. He’s a really good kid. He has promise. He’s always smiling and walking the dog. He’s enterprising. He shoveled walks in the winter.”