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Three Held in Garden Grove Double Slaying

A waitress at a nightspot ordered the killings of men she accused of harassment, police say.

September 17, 2004|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A 20-year-old waitress at a Vietnamese nightclub has been arrested on suspicion of ordering the slayings of two customers who allegedly made rude remarks and tried to grab her as she served them drinks, police said Thursday.

Ngan Thi Bich Vo was arrested at her Westminster home Tuesday as she was preparing to flee to Vietnam, police said. The woman's boyfriend, wanted for questioning in connection with the Aug. 16 killings, is thought to have left the country. Two men who police say were in the shooter's getaway car were arrested Wednesday.

The point-blank shooting of the two customers stunned the Monday late-night crowd at the Hawaii Cafe, which emptied quickly. Those still milling inside by the time police arrived provided only sketchy details of the incident.

Vo, accused of ordering the slayings, was among three people named in a murder complaint stemming from the shooting of Tri Thanh Phan, 38, of Fountain Valley and Kurt Martinsen, 29, of Lake Forest. The victims were regulars at the Brookhurst Street nightspot in Garden Grove on the outskirts of Little Saigon.

Police said the waitress, who had worked at the cafe for several weeks and might be a Vietnamese exchange student, called her boyfriend and asked him to intervene. She told her boyfriend, who was at another nightclub, that she felt the two customers had insulted her by tugging on her skirt and trying to flirt with her, said Garden Grove Police Lt. Mike Handfield.

"She was highly upset, and that may have been the anger that caused this," Handfield said. "She called and facilitated the murders. There is evidence that suggested that she took part in a message to 'take care of business.' "

Less than two hours later, at about 1 a.m., a lone gunman walked into the crowded restaurant, strode past four tables and opened fire.

Police said the gunman then ran out of the restaurant and jumped into a car in which two men were waiting.

Phan and Martinsen, who had reportedly bought the waitress a rose as a gesture of apology shortly before they were shot, died at the scene.

On Wednesday, police also arrested Danny Tran, 23, of Garden Grove and Long Le, 22, of Westminster and identified them as the men who were in the car outside the cafe.

Each has been charged with two counts of murder and with gang enhancements. Bail was set at $1 million each, police said.

Police said they were still searching for the weapon and four other people, including Vo's boyfriend. The boyfriend, who has previous drug convictions, is believed to have left the country shortly after he was interviewed by police, officials said.

The boyfriend, Handfield said, is not a suspect, but "he is under investigation. We want to talk to him."

Martinsen, an only child who worked in sales for a cellphone company, and Phan were friends for about two years and frequented the cafe after work. Phan was the eldest of four children and helped run his family's business in Westminster.

Leyna Phan, his sister, said she prayed at a temple Tuesday, just hours before Vo's arrest.

"I'm relieved and happy" about the arrests, she said. "I've been praying to my brother, asking him to please let them find the people who did this and punish them."

Vo, Le and Tran will be arraigned at West Justice Center in Westminster today.

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