Gunmen Fire Shots in Thefts at 2 Homes in Garden Grove

January 03, 1986|MARK LANDSBAUM and JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writers

Four masked robbers burst into the home of a family preparing for the wedding of a son Thursday night, fired a shot into the ceiling and robbed 10 family members, the second such incident in Garden Grove in two days, police said.

Less than 24 hours earlier and a short distance away, nine to 12 masked gunmen burst into a New Year's Day party in a Garden Grove home, demanding money and jewelry and sending many of the 60 guests screaming and running into the street, police and witnesses said.

On Thursday night, the four robbers, two of them armed with handguns, forced their way into the home of Son Nguyen in the 10100 block of Jennrich Avenue as one member of the family returned home shortly after 7 p.m. At least one of the victims was tied up by the robbers, who appeared to be 15 to 20 years old, police said.

Sgt. Dale Farley said the robbers escaped with a tape deck and an undetermined amount of jewelry from the home, which was decorated with crepe banners in anticipation of the wedding of one of Nguyen's sons Saturday. No one was injured.

Guest Hit With Gun Butt

One robber hit a guest on the head with a gun butt, but no one at the party required hospitalization. As the attackers fled in a car, about five shots were fired at a crowd in the street. No one was hit.

Police did not link the two attacks, but they were the latest in a series of residential robberies in recent years that have plagued the Vietnamese refugee communities of Garden Grove, Westminster and Santa Ana, police said.

Police said they did not know yet how much money and jewelry was taken in the first robbery.

On Thursday, they were trying to sort out conflicting versions of what happened by interviewing the 30 or so adults who were at the house in the 12500 block of Gloria Avenue when officers arrived. Many of the victims do not speak English.

"It's hard to sort out exactly what everybody was doing and everybody was wearing," Garden Grove Police Sgt. Bruce Beauchamp said. But, he said, victims of residential robberies are "a lot more willing to talk to us than (they) used to be."

A Vietnamese woman, who lives with several relatives at the house, said the robbers, wearing ski masks, came in through a side-yard gate. Brandishing guns, they confronted guests on the rear patio and shouted orders in Vietnamese, ushering people into the house, she said.

"They said: 'Everybody stay' or they would kill them," she recalled. "So nobody listened to them and everybody ran."

The woman, who did not want her name used, said one guest broke the kitchen window and leaped through it to escape. About 20 children inside the house remained in bedrooms during the two- or three-minute episode, while many adults fled to the street and some drove away.

"I wasn't scared, I just looked at them (the robbers)," said the diminutive 24-year-old woman, adding that she believes the robbers mistook her for a child. She said her sister, in a bedroom with the children, called police.

Half a block away, Jim Steams, 25, of Garden Grove was taking trash to the curb when he noticed a sports car with several Asians pulling away. A man with a handgun "was hanging out the car window," Steams said. "One man did the shooting. It looked like a .22 (caliber handgun) and it sounded like a .22." The gunman appeared to be aiming directly at about 20 people in front of the house, he said.

Mike Langley, 31, who lives a few doors from where Steams saw the car, said he heard the shots from inside his house but passed them off as a New Year celebration. Many people had fired guns into the air on New Year's Eve, Langley said.

But moments later, Langley saw police arrive with guns drawn and confront the guests still lingering outside.

"Police told everyone to freeze and lie down," Langley said. People fell to their stomachs on the street and on lawns near the house where the robbery had occurred.

Authorities said numerous Vietnamese families have been robbed in their homes by young Vietnamese in Garden Grove and surrounding areas in recent years.

Beauchamp said that residential robberies were frequent in Garden Grove in 1984 but that the New Year's raid is the largest incident he can recall. "We went through a rash of them where they were doing it fairly often a year or so ago," he said.

In neighboring Westminster, Police Detective Marc Frank said the robbers may prey on other Vietnamese because "they feel they can intimidate the victims from not talking to the police either by threatening them or, in some cases, pistol-whipping them."

"Fortunately, that's not the case," he said. Westminster police recently arrested two Vietnamese suspects in their early 20s on suspicion of a residential robbery in November. The suspects, who face felony charges in Orange County Superior Court, were arrested thanks to "good cooperation by the victim and a witness," Frank said.

Beauchamp said police have no suspects and few leads in the latest attacks. They don't know how many cars the robbers fled in from the Gloria Avenue robbery and were unsure how they escaped from the Jennrich Avenue holdup. Police said they have no descriptions in that robbery.

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