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Sunday, October 17, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Yoshi Day' To Mark Anniversary

AP

BATON ROUGE, La. - Blood stains the concrete in Rodney Peairs' carport and bits of Halloween decorations dangle hauntingly from his front railing. The deserted house is locked tight now, a year after Peairs shot a Japanese teenager.

The death of 16-year-old Yoshi Hattori intensified attention on the prevalence of weapons in the United States.

"This is not a clash of cultures," Richard Haymaker, the exchange student's host father, said of extraordinary Japanese interest in the shooting. "Most of this country doesn't understand it."

In Minneapolis and Washington, today is dubbed "Yoshi Day." Supporters planned to plant daffodils and trees in his memory and the memory of others killed by guns.

Today in Seattle, 10,000 daffodils will be planted beginning at 1 p.m. along Eighth Avenue Northwest, between Northwest 65th and 85th streets.

One year ago today, Hattori and Haymaker's son, Webb, went looking for a Halloween party, got lost and mistakenly went to Peairs' door, dressed in costumes. They frightened Bonnie Peairs, who yelled to her husband to get his gun.

"There was no thinking involved," she testified at her husband's manslaughter trial.

Peairs got his .44-caliber Magnum revolver, equipped with an 8 1/4-inch barrel and a scope for deer hunting. He opened the door and shouted "Freeze!"

Hattori's father guessed the gun was so big his son didn't recognize it as a weapon. A translator testified the boy would not

understand the word "Freeze!" as a warning.

In any case, Hattori moved forward. Peairs shot him once in the chest and he bled to death.

Peairs was indicted on one count of manslaughter. District Attorney Doug Moreau said Peairs, 31, was negligent because he made no effort to find out what the danger was or to stay inside and call police.

Peairs was acquitted. He has refused repeated requests for interviews.

He moved his family out of the house where the shooting occurred when the attention from the Japanese media became too intense. He also left his grocery-store job.

"He's doing fair, I guess you could say. He's trying hard to make a living," said Charlene Peairs, his mother. "It's been a heartbreaking experience for the whole family.

"We're not harsh people. He didn't want to do it - nobody wants to," she said. "It's hard enough to shoot an animal."

Haymaker pleaded with the state Legislature to pass some kind of gun control. But a week after Peairs' acquittal, lawmakers went home after actually expanding the "shoot-the-burglar" law.

"This is not a situation peculiar to Louisiana," Gov. Edwin Edwards said last week after appointing a task force to study violence. "The nation as a whole is suffering. . . . It's horrifying what is happening."

Haymaker took leave from his job as a physics professor at Louisiana State University to speak for gun control across the country.

"What was the first thing Peairs said after the trial: `I never want that gun again,' " Haymaker said. "He pointed to the problem. It is not some general problem society can't solve. He said it: `I don't ever want that gun again, it's ruined my life.' "

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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