The star witness in the state's case against the notorious Asian Boyz gang telephoned his parents' house in San Jose on Friday after he spent the day testifying against seven of his former associates in the multiple-murder trial.
"How's it going?" Truong Dinh asked when his brother answered the phone.
In shock, the brother told Dinh their 64-year-old father, Dong Dinh, had been gunned down minutes earlier, after answering a knock at the door.
"Are the cops there yet?" Dinh asked. "Let me talk to them."
Dinh told an officer he had spent the last two weeks testifying in Los Angeles against seven members of the Asian Boyz.
His father's killing, he said, was no doubt an attempt to intimidate him into silence.
"They're trying to send me a message," Dinh later told San Jose Homicide Det. Gary Kirby. "But it hasn't changed my mind."
Indeed, Dinh again took the witness stand Monday, three days after his father's slaying, and continued to provide testimony that could result in death sentences for five of the seven Asian Boyz on trial.
A week ago in court, Dinh, who remains in protective custody, narrated a homemade videotape that showed an Asian Boyz gang member bragging about shooting victims "between the eyes, point-blank."
On Tuesday, Kirby said, Dinh broke into tears during a 90-minute interview over the shooting death of his father.
"He kept asking how his mom was doing," Kirby said. "He was upset that the gang had [allegedly] decided to lash out at a family member. He thought that was just unacceptable."
Dinh, 23, told Kirby the killing could be the work of a "climber," a younger gang member trying to earn respect by carrying out an execution. He gave investigators a list of people who may have information about the killing, Kirby said.
Until the night of the elder Dinh's slaying, the family did not know Truong Dinh was testifying in the trial of the gang members, who face charges in seven slayings and 18 attempted slayings during a crime spree that began in 1995.
Family members want to know why they were not offered protection by authorities.
"They had absolutely no idea what a nest of hornets they were living in," Kirby said. "That's why they're lashing out at the LAPD."
Citing a gag order, Los Angeles authorities have refused to discuss whether protection should have been provided to the Dinh family. Authorities are in disagreement over who is responsible for the protection of witnesses and their families.
A spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti said it is the job of police to determine whether protection is needed. An LAPD spokesman said the decision must be made by prosecutors.
Kirby said San Jose police would have preferred to have known about the potential threat to the Dinh family, but he does not blame Los Angeles authorities for Dong Dinh's death.
"[Truong Dinh] himself is the one who is responsible for his father's death," Kirby said. "He chose not tell his family because he thought the less they know the better."
On Wednesday, Kirby was back in San Jose, pursuing clues from Dinh and the LAPD. He said he believes the killing was ordered by one of the men on trial, but police have no suspects and no witnesses.
Testimony continued Wednesday in Van Nuys with the survivor of one of the Asian Boyz alleged attacks taking the witness stand in the trial, which is expected to continue into next year.