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Orange County

Police Believe Gunman Summoned

The killer of two men at a Garden Grove restaurant was sent for, officers theorize. A waitress says the victims had been teasing her.

August 18, 2004|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Garden Grove police said Tuesday that they were looking into reports that the execution-style slayings of two men at a restaurant may have been provoked by the victims, who allegedly harassed a waitress and tugged on her skirt.

The waitress told police she was upset after the men -- Tri Thanh Phan, 38, of Fountain Valley and Kurt Martinsen, 29, of Lake Forest -- teased her and pulled on her skirt, said Police Lt. Mike Handfield.

He cautioned that it was just one scenario being investigated. But, he said, police were working on the theory that the killer was summoned to the restaurant.

The waitress, whose name was not released, told police she called her boyfriend, who was at a club, and complained about being harassed, police said.

Police said they had interviewed the waitress and her boyfriend and considered neither to be a suspect.

Shortly after the waitress' phone call about 1 a.m. Monday, a gunman arrived at Hawaii Cafe on Brookhurst Street near Chapman Avenue looking for the men, police said. The gunman strode by several tables before approaching Phan and Martinsen, who were seated with five other men, and fired without saying a word, police said.

Officers said that about 75 customers fled the restaurant; none was injured.

Dressed in a white T-shirt, blue jeans and a baseball cap, the gunman fled and got into a dark-colored sedan, where two people were waiting for him, police said. The car sped south on Brookhurst Street. Police found the slain men on the floor.

Phan's relatives said they were told that he and Martinsen had drunk about four beers at the restaurant. The two men, a relative said, apologized to the waitress for their actions and even bought her a rose.

Tri Phan was the eldest of four children. He graduated from Southern California Institute of Technology in Anaheim and had been working at his family's restaurant in Westminster. "He's been a hard worker," said his brother, Niem Phan. "And he just liked hanging out."

Martinsen, who lived on a Lake Forest cul-de-sac with his mother, was an only child. He worked as a sales representative for a cellphone company. "He took care of his mom as much as she took care of him," said Niem Phan, who had introduced him to his brother.

The two victims had been friends for about two years and were frequent customers at the restaurant.

"We want the person responsible to pay for this senseless crime," Niem Phan said. "They're coldblooded murderers. It's just plain stupidity for this to happen."

The killer is described as 25, about 5 feet 11 and between 145 and 165 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call (714) 741-5877.

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