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Victim of Stabbing Is Called a 'Good Kid'

Crime: Cousin of man killed at cyber cafe denies he was a gang associate.

January 03, 2002|SCOTT MARTELLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A cousin of a man stabbed to death outside a Garden Grove cyber cafe over the weekend on Wednesday disputed police contentions that the dead man was a gang associate, describing Phuong Huu Ly, 20, as "a very good kid."

Ly died early Monday, less than eight hours after a teenage assailant stabbed him in the head with a screwdriver while Ly and a friend waited to play video games at PC Cafe.

Police said there has been an escalating pattern of problems at cyber cafes, late-night businesses that charge hourly rates to play Internet video games.

Police said the cafes have been particularly attractive to gang members, and more than a dozen prior incidents in Garden Grove and Santa Ana have ranged from fights to attempted murder.

Vanessa Huynh, 31, of Midway City said Wednesday that her cousin Ly held a part-time job while attending college full time and had little room in his life for gangs or regular visits to cyber cafes.

Yet, she acknowledged, his family often didn't know where Ly would go when he went out with friends. Huynh also said that while Ly "loved" computer games, his family was unfamiliar with cyber cafes, which cater to a predominantly Asian male clientele.

She said Ly never mentioned gangs to his family, who she said remained too distraught to talk to reporters. "He's a good kid, a very good kid," Huynh said at a news conference outside the Garden Grove Police Department. "He wished to be a doctor someday."

Police Sgt. Mike Handfield said investigators believe Ly was a gang associate, despite the family's denials. "He's a gang associate; he hangs with known gang members," Handfield said.

Police said Ly was killed by one of two young men, both estimated to be 16 years old and 5 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing about 115 pounds and with black hair shaved on the sides and spiked on top.

The suspects were in the cafe when Ly and his friend arrived, police said, and approached Ly as the two friends smoked cigarettes while waiting for one of the cafe's 62 computers to become available.

The assailant was silent as he pulled a large screwdriver from his waistband and stabbed Ly in the head, then fled "after yelling some gang names," police said. The assailant and his companion jumped into a light-green four-door Honda Accord in which two other young men were waiting, and the car sped off.

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