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CHP Officer's Accused Killer Flown to State

July 23, 1996|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Amid concerns of a rescue or assassination attempt, the man accused of slaying a rookie CHP officer was secretly flown Monday to John Wayne Airport, where he was greeted by a dozen Fullerton police officers toting automatic weapons.

Shackled and dour, Hung "Henry" Thanh Mai, 25, was ferried from Houston to California aboard a chartered jet. Mai is expected to appear in court today or Wednesday to face charges that he shot CHP Officer Don Burt on July 13 in Fullerton after a routine traffic stop.

The high security and low profile of Mai's extradition from a Texas jail cell was a nod to concerns that someone might try to free him or that "hateful phone calls" in recent days might signal an attempt on his life, Fullerton Police Sgt. Dave Stanko said.

Stanko revealed Monday that a caller posing as "a high-ranking official in the Fullerton Police Department" tried to have Mai freed from jail in Texas, where Mai was arrested Wednesday.

The caller succeeded Friday in persuading a sheriff's deputy in Harris County, Texas, to send the handcuffed inmate down to the jail area where prisoners are prepared for release, Stanko said. A senior officer on duty, however, questioned the prisoner and quickly returned him to his cell, the sergeant said.

Stanko said he was unsure how a single phone call from an unknown person could bring a homicide suspect "so close" to release.

Deputies on duty at the Harris County jail Monday night said they were unaware of the situation and were not authorized to comment.

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