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Vietnamese Taken in Siege Tied to Rash of Holdups

October 07, 1987|MICHAEL CONNELLY | Times Staff Writer

A Vietnamese gang member arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon is a suspect in 14 robberies that have recently plagued the Los Angeles area's Asian community, police said.

Thao Van Nguin, 20, a transient from the Houston area, was one of six Viet Ching gang members arrested Monday after threatening the life of a man who could identify members of the gang as suspects in the robbery of a home, police said.

Detective Jim Bryan said a warrant was issued last week by the Los Angeles and El Monte police departments for Nguin's arrest on suspicion of nine recent robberies of homes in the two cities.

Nguin and five other gang members were arrested during a five-hour standoff with police Monday night at the Sasa-Sushi Restaurant in the 20900 block of Devonshire Street in Chatsworth, police said. No one was injured.

Bryan said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and could face other charges relating to the robberies in Los Angeles.

The names of the other suspects were not released because they carried no identification when arrested, police said.

"We are still trying to find out who they are," said Bryan, who noted that only one of the suspects is believed to be a juvenile.

Police said the suspects had gone to the restaurant to eat after leaving a home in Van Nuys where they had threatened to kill a Laotian man if he attempted to identify gang members involved in a robbery at his uncle's home. The six suspects lifted their shirts in front of the witness to reveal automatic weapons tucked in their waistbands, police said.

After they left the home, the witness, whom police declined to identify, called authorities and described the suspects and their car. Patrol officers later spotted the suspects driving to the sushi restaurant. The building was surrounded and four of them surrendered when police ordered the restaurant emptied.

The two remaining suspects were arrested about five hours later after SWAT team members threw tear gas inside and then searched the restaurant. The two were found in a crawl space above the ceiling. No weapons were found on the suspects, but police discovered an undisclosed number of guns under floor mats in the car in which the suspects were riding.

Police said the Viet Ching gang is believed responsible for several home robberies and extortion attempts in the Los Angeles area. Bryan said Nguin's brother, Timothy Van Nguin, is a gang member who was recently jailed on suspicion of robbery.

The robberies are part of a recent wave of Vietnamese gang crime directed primarily against Asians in areas including the San Fernando Valley, police said. The problem became so pronounced last week that police warned Vietnamese residents in the Valley not to open their doors to strangers.

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