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Suspect in deaths of two gas company workers shoots himself

March 20, 2009|Ruben Vives and My-Thuan Tran

It started Tuesday night when a technician for the Southern California Gas Co. was fatally shot outside the company's Anaheim office.

The next day, a second gas company employee was gunned down outside his Pomona home as he was preparing to leave for work.

On Thursday, the alleged gunman in both shootings drove to the Anaheim Police Department, parked and shot himself in the head, police said. Detectives are now trying to sort out what happened and what the motive might be for the violence.

"We don't know what he was thinking," said Sgt. Tim Schmidt, adding that detectives believe the man could have been planning to harm additional Southern California Gas employees. "We were shocked."

Phong Thuc Tran, 36, of Fountain Valley was found with a gunshot wound to the head about 1:30 a.m. Thursday after an officer driving by spotted Tran's silver Toyota RAV4, Schmidt said.

"The officer saw that the window on the driver's side had been blown out," Schmidt said.

Tran was taken by ambulance to UCI Medical Center, where he was said to be alive "but was not expected to survive," Schmidt said.

Three handguns were recovered inside the vehicle, but police had not determined which, if any, were used in the attacks.

The first shooting occurred outside a Southern California Gas facility in Anaheim, where 37-year-old Hung Duy Dao, a seven-year energy technician, was gunned down in the driver's seat of his car.

Dao's family members gathered Thursday at the mobile home in Westminster where he lived with his parents.

His father, Hoa Duc Dao, 73, said he still feels his son is going to walk through the door any moment. "Usually he comes home at 9 p.m.," he said, "but he's not coming back today."

Laura Dao, 44, said her little brother didn't talk much, but was always cracking jokes. She lives in nearby Garden Grove and visits the mobile home almost every day before dinner to chat with her family. Most of Dao's brothers and sisters live in Southern California.

"He was a gentleman," she said. "He was always so respectful. For my parents to lose a son, it is unimaginable. We are all suffering."

She said Dao was working hard to save money to buy a house. He had married Phuong Duong, 25, in November.

The second victim was 43-year-old Charles Santisteban, a manager for the company's offices in Alhambra and Pasadena. Santisteban had worked for the company for 20 years, said spokeswoman Denise King. Authorities said he was fatally shot in his driveway.

Tran, who previously had worked with the two employees at the Anaheim facility, had resigned from the company in November 2007, King said.

She said a memorial fund for the families of Dao and Santisteban had been set up by Southern California Gas at E1 Financial Credit Union, 1155 Corporate Center Drive, Monterey Park, CA 91754.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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