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Gunman Kills 3 in Pomona Family, Himself

September 25, 1993|VICKI TORRES and LILY DIZON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A young Pomona man, apparently spurned in romance, opened fire on his estranged girlfriend and her family, killing three people and injuring two others before committing suicide, police said Friday.

The attack--believed to be the worst mass shooting in the city's history--ended with the gunman chasing the young woman from her home to a nearby convenience store, where he critically wounded her with gunshots to the neck and stomach before taking his own life late Thursday, police said.

Part of the assault was captured on the store's video camera, investigators said.

Killed during the melee were the girlfriend's brothers, Hien Quach, 22, and Mike Quach, 32, and their mother, Bang Thi Bui, 56. The girlfriend, Huyen Bach Quach, 19, was being treated at Pomona Valley Medical Center. Her father, Phong Quach, 59, was reported in critical condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

The gunman was identified by police as Nam Dinh Tran, 21, of Pomona, who had dated Quach for four years before the pair broke up two months ago, family members said. The reason for their falling out had never been made clear, said the girlfriend's older sister, Hanh Quach.

"It never seemed very serious," the sister said of the relationship. "They did things like going to movies, but even then, her older brother (Hien) would accompany them." After the breakup, the sister added, "I asked Huyen what happened, and she would only say, 'I don't like him anymore.' "

Tran apparently went to the Quach home on East Grand Avenue about 9 p.m. Thursday armed with a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun and intent on harming the young woman, police said.

Xoi Ha, 66, a relative of the Quachs who happened to be arriving for a visit, recalled Tran meeting the father at the door and saying casually, "I haven't seen you in a while. . . . Can I come in?"

Once inside, Tran shot the girlfriend's brother Hien, who was bedridden with leg injuries suffered several months ago, then began shooting others, Ha said in an interview. The father began pleading for Tran to spare the family, then lunged for the gun, Ha said. The two men struggled until Tran shot the father.

"I pray to you, I beg you, please don't shoot me," Ha remembered imploring the gunman, who only looked at her, then walked out. Tran then fired at the former girlfriend, who had been somewhere outside, Ha said.

The girlfriend fled down Grand Avenue to a 7-Eleven store a block away, according to police. There, Tran caught up with her in the doorway and shot her, police said. The store's video camera captured that shooting, said Pomona Police Lt. Greg Hamill, adding that the tape was not being released.

After injuring the young woman, Tran apparently ran from the store back to the home, where he took his own life, police said.

Paramedics arriving at the 7-Eleven were directed to the home, where they found the woman's father sitting on the front curb, bleeding from wounds to his chest, arm and leg.

Inside, they found Mike Quach dead in the kitchen. He had three gunshot wounds, including one to the head. The other brother, Hien, was shot in the head. The mother was found dead in the bedroom, lying on the floor with a single gunshot wound to the upper chest.

The gunman also was found dead in the house with a bullet wound to the head.

The neighborhood where the shootings occurred is known for gang activity, graffiti and the occasional sounds of gunshots, some residents said. However, the Quach household seemed a peaceful island amid those problems, said Laurie Moench, 27, a three-year resident.

"You see gangbangers driving back and forth at night," Moench said. "But we're all kind of shocked that something like that happened to (the Quachs). They were so quiet."

The family emigrated about 10 years ago from Vietnam, the older sister Hanh said. Quach had met Tran while they were classmates at Ganesha High School in Pomona. This year, she has attended Chaffee College in Rancho Cucamonga, her sister said.

On Friday, the gunman's brother, Viet Tran, 18, huddled with neighbors trying to make sense of the shooting.

"I keep thinking, 'Why did he do that?' I don't know why. It's so surprising," Viet Tran said.

Viet Tran said he and his brother came to the United States from Vietnam with their older sister six years ago. Three years later, when their sister married, the two young men moved into a home on Fernleaf Avenue, about a mile from the Quach residence. They lived among a block-long congregation of Vietnamese families.

In an interview, Viet Tran said he and his brother shared a room and lived with others in the same house to save money. His brother had a full-time job in a Fullerton machine shop, Viet Tran said.

Nam Tran's daily routine was difficult, the brother said. Nam would arise at 5 a.m. and not come home until 6 or 7 p.m. He saved his money to regularly send cash to his parents in Vietnam. He also was saving to open a manicurist shop with his girlfriend, the brother said.

The young men were regulars at nearby St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The two attended 6 a.m. Sunday services or 7 p.m. evening services, Viet Tran said.

"He never (went) out at night," Viet Tran said. "He worked 12 hours a day."

On the night of the shooting, Viet Tran said he and his brother went to a restaurant for dinner and watched the evening news on television. His brother did not seem upset but talked and laughed easily, Viet Tran said.

Viet said he left to visit a friend, and when he came home at 11 p.m., his brother was gone. That was unusual, he said.

Not until police knocked at his door the next morning did Viet Tran know what had happened.

The Quachs are seeking financial help from the Vietnamese community so that they can pay for the burial of their dead family members.

Viet Tran said he may not have enough money to bury his brother, but if necessary, he will sell his battered pickup.

Times staff writer David Ferrell contributed to this story.

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