Airhorn helps save pregnant Oakland Chinatown store owner from attack, robbery

Airhorns were distributed to Oakland's Chinatown in 2021, a tool provided for community members to alert others when in danger.

Dion Lim Image
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Airhorn saves pregnant Oakland store owner from attack
A pregnant store owner in Oakland's Chinatown credits a community-donated safety tool for helping her after she was attacked outside her store.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A pregnant store owner in Oakland's Chinatown credits a community-donated safety tool for helping her after she was attacked outside her store.

Eva Liu and her husband own Yuda International Logistics, which specializes in shipping items to and from Asia.

While working at the store the afternoon of April 25, she was approached by a man, who is seen on surveillance video, approaching a stack of customer packages.

"This person came in and he was trying to grab those packages." said Liu , through a translator.

Liu, who does not speak much English, can be heard yelling "sorry, sorry, sorry" in an effort to get the man to stop walking toward her. In an instant, Liu, who is seven months pregnant, fearlessly grabs the airhorn from her desk and runs after the man.

"I couldn't afford to be afraid because I wanted to protect those packages for the customers."

You can't see it on camera but you can hear the moment the man hurls the hand sanitizer bottle at Liu's pregnant belly. Liu screams as the man runs away. She says the suspect called her a "Chinese b***h" as he was leaving the area. She didn't even know what the term meant until someone translated it for her days after the incident. She then deploys the airhorn.

The sound scared the man away and also alerted a nearby volunteer security team -- the Blue Angels who flagged down Oakland police, and who arrived in less than two minutes.

Thousands of air horns like the one Liu used were distributed throughout Oakland's Chinatown and beyond in February 2021. The distribution was made possible thanks in part to generous donations from community members, including a contractor who wanted an alternative to whistles and pepper spray, and the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Carl Chan, president of the Chinatown Chamber says the community was skeptical at first.

"In the beginning, people were questioning why should I carry airhorns? With a few incidents happening, like the one here it's helping small businesses," Chans said.

He says proper education on how to use the airhorn has paid off.

During a time when many violent attacks on the Asian American community have been caught on camera, this latest incident is an encouraging sign the airhorns are working.

"We're thinking not just distribute them in just Chinatown, but we're hoping to distribute them, to other communities as well," Chan said.

As for Liu, she and her baby narrowly missed getting hurt by the hand sanitizer bottle.

"I was trying to protect my stomach so I turned, and it hit my ribs," she said

Liu is just grateful the airhorn helped save the day.

"When it sounded, many neighbors in a few block radius could hear it and knew trouble was happening."

She says despite this positive outcome, the work is far from over to keep Oakland's Chinatown safe.

"I'd like to see more police officers, especially officers that speak the language," Liu said.

The suspect in Liu's case has not yet been arrested.