It Happened This Week in L.A. History: Chinatown Under Siege


October 24, 1871 

A racially charged riot sparked by the shooting death of Robert Thompson, a white rancher who got caught in the cross-fire of a gun fight between Chinese gangs, led to the deaths of nearly 20 men.

The incensed rioters, a group made up of more than 500 white men, ransacked Chinatown homes and dragged Chinese men to be hanged in makeshift gallows in what was then colloquially known as Calle de los Negroes (part of Los Angeles Street today).  Corrupt police allegedly allowed and even participated in the violence.

The massacre ended when Sheriff James Burns called for volunteers to stand with him and fight the mob. Eight of the ten men who stood trial were later convicted, but their convictions were overturned on a technicality.