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3rd Violent Death in Less Than 2 Years Rocks Family

February 16, 1988|JIM CARLTON | Times Staff Writer

Irene Tafulu of Westminster found it hard enough when two of her brothers died in separate traffic accidents during 1986.

But since her baby brother, Joe Steven Wilson, was shot to death in a liquor store altercation early Saturday, she said the pain has become unbearable.

"We're gonna miss him," Tafulu said softly Monday, as family members gathered to console one another in the wake of the latest violent death.

2 Brothers Killed

The first death occurred on Good Friday in 1986, when Tai Wilson, 24, was fatally injured on his motorcycle. The second occurred the day after Thanksgiving, when Nuu Soloi was killed in a bicycle accident.

At a few moments past midnight Friday, Joe Wilson, 22, one of four surviving brothers in the Samoan family, strolled with his friend, Dennis Wayne Spradlin, into the Wine, Stein & Barrel liquor store in Westminster. As they ordered another keg of beer for a party they had been attending, police said Spradlin, 20, of Fountain Valley, argued with four other store patrons.

Wilson went out to the car. But seeing that his friend was still arguing loudly with the other people, who were Vietnamese, and using racial epithets, Wilson returned to the store and tried to extricate Spradlin from an impending fight, the liquor store owner told police.

Man Opens Fire

One of the Vietnamese went to his car, got a .38-caliber pistol and turned it on the two men, police said. The man shot and wounded Wilson and Spradlin, then coolly walked over and fired another round into their heads as they lay on the pavement, police said.

A former South Vietnamese marine, Cuong M. Cao, 38, was arrested near his home in Santa Clara on Saturday afternoon. Cao was returned to Westminster and booked in the Orange County Jail on suspicion of two counts of murder. His bail was set at $250,000 pending arraignment Wednesday.

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