Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
FOUR MEMBERS OF VIETNAMESE CRIMINAL STREET GANG CONVICTED OF 1995 COLD CASE EXECUTION-STYLE RETALIATORY MURDER
SANTA ANA – Four members of a Vietnamese criminal street gang were convicted today of the 1995 cold case execution-style murder of a fellow gang associate in retaliation for abandoning them while committing a home invasion robbery one day earlier. Anthony Paul Johnson, Jr., 35, Westminster, Giang Thuy Nguyen, 36, Fountain Valley, Tam Hung Nguyen, 36, Riverside, and Truc Ngoc Tran, 34, Santa Ana, were each found guilty by a jury of one felony count of murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder with sentencing enhancement allegations for murder by lying in wait and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang. The sentencing enhancement against Johnson for murder to avoid arrest was found true. The sentencing enhancements for murder to avoid arrest and crime-bail-crime against Giang Nguyen were found true. The sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm against Tam Nguyen was found true. All four defendants face a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole at their sentencing June 8, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-43, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
On the morning of Feb. 24, 1995, Johnson, Giang Nguyen, and fellow gang member Viet Nguyen committed a masked home invasion robbery in Huntington Beach at the home of a high school classmate of Viet Nguyen. During the robbery, Viet Nguyen fled the scene and left his fellow gang members because he believed that the victim in the residence may have recognized him. This robbery was not prosecuted, as it remained unsolved for several years and the statute of limitations has run.
On the evening of Feb. 24, 1995, Johnson, Giang Nguyen, Tam Nguyen, and Tran met at a house in Midway City and conspired to murder Viet Nguyen in retaliation for fleeing during the robbery that morning and to prevent him from implicating Johnson and Giang Nguyen in the robbery if he were to be identified by the victim and arrested. Early in the morning on Feb. 25, 1995, Johnson and Giang Nguyen convinced Viet Nguyen to take Tam Nguyen with him in his van under the pretense of buying drugs. Giang Nguyen gave Tran the keys to another car, which Tran used to follow Viet Nguyen’s car without the victim’s knowledge.
While Viet Nguyen was driving, Tam Nguyen directed him to drive through various areas in Orange County under the pretense of looking for the home of a specific drug dealer associated with Tam Nguyen. Tam Nguyen, who was riding in the back seat, claimed to feel ill while Viet Nguyen was driving on the northbound California State Route 73 in Costa Mesa. When Viet Nguyen pulled the van over to the shoulder, Tam Nguyen pulled out a semi-automatic firearm and shot the victim in the back of the head, executing him.
Tran, who followed the van in a separate car as part of the plan to murder Viet Nguyen, pulled behind the van on the shoulder of the freeway so that Tam Nguyen could get into the car and escape from the scene of the crime. The four co-defendants later met at a motel in Anaheim to procure false alibis in order to hide their involvement in Viet Nguyen’s murder.
To avoid retribution from their gang for murdering a gang associate, the defendants lied to other members of their gang by falsely stating that Viet Nguyen