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Slaying at San Gabriel coffeehouse remains a mystery

Detectives can't track down the victim's family, frustrating their efforts to solve the shooting that left one dead and six wounded.

February 13, 2009|Ruben Vives

There were 30 witnesses when two masked gunmen burst into a San Gabriel coffeehouse and opened fire, killing one person and injuring six others.

But a week later, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department homicide detectives said they are still trying to sort out the mystery of what happened -- and why.

They said their investigation has been slowed in part because they have not found family members of the man killed. Finding his family is important because that would allow detectives to examine his background and determine whether he was the intended target.

"We're just trying to establish who our deceased person is right now," said Sheriff's Lt. Pat Nelson, who is leading the investigation. "It's almost impossible to establish a motive. We can't move forward with the investigation not knowing who [the man's] next of kin is."

Coroner's officials described the man as Asian and in his late 30s. They said his parents were possibly living in Vietnam.

The gunmen opened fire Feb. 5 at the Coffee House-Cafe Nhac on East Valley Boulevard. The man who was killed died at the scene; the other victims were taken to hospitals, where they recovered from their wounds.

More than 30 people were inside the coffeehouse at the time, Nelson said, and at least 25 were interviewed by detectives. Witnesses told investigators that two masked gunmen stormed the business and began firing.

The gunmen did not demand money, Nelson said.

Although the shooters targeted a specific table, police did not know if the man who was killed had been sitting there. Investigators also could not determine whether the shooting was gang-related.

"It's likely. It has the earmarks that it's gang-related, but it's not definitive," Nelson said.

San Gabriel is 10 miles east of Los Angeles, and Asians, primarily Chinese and Vietnamese, make up at least 60% of its population of 42,762, according to the California Department of Finance.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500 or the San Gabriel Police Department at (626) 308-2828. Callers may remain anonymous.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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