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Court Papers Link Alleged Hate Killer to Jailhouse Attack

Violence: Prosecutors say suspected slayer of Asian student tried to kill an Asian inmate.

September 11, 1997|THAO HUA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The alleged white supremacist accused of murdering a former UCLA student leader because of his skin color almost killed a Vietnamese inmate in the showers of the Orange County Jail, according to a motion filed by prosecutors.

Gunner J. Lindberg, 22, is awaiting trial in the 1996 stabbing death of Thien Minh Ly, also Vietnamese, in a crime that prosecutors argued was spurred by racial hate and an intent to rob, both of which are among the "special circumstances" that make convicted murderers liable to the death penalty.

In a new development that could strengthen the state's case that Ly's murder was a hate crime, Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald will decide whether to admit evidence linking Lindberg to another crime with alleged racial overtones that occurred in May, while the Tustin man was being held in jail.

If granted, the prosecutors' motion would help them prove that Lindberg acted out of racial hatred when he allegedly attacked the 24-year-old university student, who had been in-line skating on an unlit tennis court near his parents' home. Ly's body, with 14 stab wounds around his heart, was found the next day by a Tustin High School employee.

According to the three-page court document filed Sept. 3, another inmate, Alejandro Villa, told investigators that Lindberg "became unusually excited" when he learned that a Vietnamese American named Thang Le would be assigned to his module.

"At first, [Villa] thought that it must be because Lindberg thought Mr. Le would join their pinochle group," according to the motion. "However, Villa soon became aware that Lindberg hated Asians more than Villa had realized."

On May 30, Lindberg beat Le in the showers and tried to strangle him with his own shirt, leaving marks on his neck, according to court documents. Lindberg attacked Le on another occasion, and had bombarded the Vietnamese inmate with racial slurs, court papers stated.

Lindberg then wrote the district attorney's office and admitted to attacking Le, the court documents said. Furthermore, Lindberg stated in the letter that he would "get Le" if the guards ever left them alone, even for a few minutes, court documents show.

Orange County sheriff's deputies transferred Le to another module, and after investigating the case turned it over to the district attorney's office. It is not clear whether separate charges of attempted murder will be filed against Lindberg in connection with the beating, but prosecutors are attempting to link the case to Ly's murder.

Prosecutor Debora Lloyd declined to talk about the motion, which is expected to be argued today or Monday, following jury selection. Defense attorney David Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.

The alleged jailhouse attack was among a handful of incidents that prosecutors are trying to introduce in arguing the hate crime charge.

Among others is another incriminating letter allegedly written by Lindberg, describing how he had "killed a Jap a while ago." The letter, written about a month after the slaying of Ly, led police to arrest Lindberg and Domenic M. Christopher, 18, who later admitted that he was at the scene of the murder. Christopher was sentenced in May to 25 years to life for his role in the murder.

During their investigation, police officers found a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. with a bullet wound in his forehead, stating, "If they killed four more, we'd get the rest of the week off," according to court records.

In an interview with a woman who had worked with Lindberg at K-Mart, investigators learned that he had struck an Asian co-worker in January 1996, just a few weeks before Ly's murder. Then, in yet another letter to another friend, Lindberg wrote, "stay white" and "I'm 100% against blacks," according to court records.

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