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Years of racial slurs 'scarred' Japanese American gunman charged in teacher's slaying, attorney says

March 23, 2010 |  1:49 pm

Norman Schureman was a professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Credit: Steven A. Heller / Art Center College of Design A lawyer representing a Westlake Village man who was charged Tuesday in the fatal shooting of a Pasadena art college instructor said his client had become upset after hearing his wife subjected to "a racial and sexual slur."

Dmitry Gorin, whose law firm is representing Steven Ronald Honma -- arrested Sunday in connection with the weekend slaying at a Persian new year's party -- said the 54-year-old engineer had been traumatized from years of insults targeting his Japanese heritage.

"This is a textbook heat-of-passion incident, which a jury would consider in deciding whether Mr. Honma is guilty of murder or a lower-level homicide such as a manslaughter," Gorin said. "While the sequence of events are still under investigation, there was someone at the party who made a derogatory racial and sexual slur about his wife. As a Japanese American growing up after World War II, Mr. Honma had experienced great trauma as a victim of racial bias, and that experience scarred him since childhood."

Honma and his family "feel great sorrow and extend their condolences" to the family of Norman Schureman, 50, an instructor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Gorin said. "Mr. Honma has never hurt anyone before in his life. Mr. Honma has been married for over 18 years and is respected, beloved by his friends and family."

Honma was a guest at a party Saturday when the alleged taunt occurred; the source of the slur was unclear. Honma became enraged and left, returning minutes later carrying a knife and two guns, authorities said.

There was a fight, and when Honma was tackled, he allegedly pulled a handgun and fired, killing Schureman.

Gorin said his client was severely beaten in the incident and was in critical condition at a local hospital, having possibly suffered a brain injury.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged Honma on Tuesday in the slaying.  He is being held in lieu of $2-million bail, faces one count of murder and one count of possession of a firearm with a prior conviction. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

He was scheduled to appear in a Van Nuys courtroom Tuesday afternoon, but his injuries may cause a postponement.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Norman Schureman was a professor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Credit: Steven A. Heller / Art Center College of Design