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Suspects' Release Blamed on Threat From Viet Gang

October 10, 1987|CLAUDIA PUIG | Times Staff Writer and

A Laotian immigrant was threatened for the second time in a week by a Vietnamese gang, some of whose members were arrested at a Chatsworth restaurant but released a few days later, authorities said Friday.

Although six Vietnamese gang members had forced their way into the victim's Van Nuys home Monday, threatening to kill him, the man later refused to cooperate with authorities and identify his assailants because he feared for his life, said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. John Spence.

Not Enough Evidence

Police arrested the six men, between 22 and 36 years old, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, but, without the cooperation of the victim, there was insufficient evidence to hold them, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Ron Lewis.

"If the victim doesn't want to come forward, there's no crime that can be prosecuted," Spence said.

The victim, whose name police would not release, said members of the Viet Ching gang had threatened to kill him if he identified them as his attackers, Spence said.

Because police had concentrated on gathering evidence for the assault case, they filed no other charges against the men, two of whom had hidden inside the Chatsworth sushi restaurant for five hours while authorities shot tear gas into it, Lewis said.

Time Ran Out

Five detectives had worked on filing the assault charges and could not complete details necessary to file additional charges against the suspects within the legal time limit of 48 hours, Lewis said. The suspects were arrested Monday night and released Thursday.

"We were working under time constraints," Lewis said. "Our priorities at the time were the more serious case. We did not have enough manpower to . . . go two directions at one time."

However, the lieutenant said, detectives now plan to file lesser charges against the gang members who had not been rearrested. Detectives will also try to gather more evidence for assault charges against the six.

"We did what we could while we had them in custody and unfortunately our evidence did fall short," Lewis said.

"Now we're pursuing both avenues because they're on the street," he said of the suspects.

Police said the six forced their way into the home of the Van Nuys man Monday because they feared he could identify them as the suspects in the recent robbery of his uncle's home. Several of the men had displayed guns and had threatened to kill the man if he contacted authorities about the robbery, Spence said.

Followed to Restaurant

The man was threatened again later in the week, said Spence, who would not elaborate.

The five-hour siege at Sasa Sushi restaurant occurred Monday afternoon, just after the gang members had left the man's Van Nuys home. The men were spotted by police and followed to the restaurant, where they were surrounded.

The restaurant was evacuated, and four of the men surrendered immediately. The other two were captured after Special Weapons and Tactics team officers fired tear gas into the restaurant and searched it. The two unarmed men were discovered in a crawl space, police said.

Al Albergate, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said more charges against the gang members could be filed next week.

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