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Police: Tai Phan is victim; The Vu is possible shooter in Eden Center deaths

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The shooting started at close range. Watching in amazement across the Eden Center parking lot Saturday night, the witness saw a short man dressed in dark clothes walk toward a car and then fire three quick shots while standing next to the left rear tire. The witness couldn’t see the target, but his friend could.

“My friend said, ‘The guy just shot Tai,’ ” the witness said.

Within seconds, the witness saw his friend, Tai “Peter” Phan, sprinting toward him, followed by the gunman. “Tai looked back,” the witness said. “The guy was still chasing very closely. Tai shouted, but he was too scared to say any words.”

The two men disappeared behind a dumpster near the VIP Bistro, and the witness heard two more shots. A pause. Then a third shot. And then the gunman walked quickly back to his car. The witness, terrified, fled. He told his story only after the police informed him Monday that the gunman had later killed himself. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the gunman’s associates.

On Tuesday, Falls Church police confirmed that Phan, 49, of Annandale, was the victim. A Falls Church officer quickly arrived on the scene and tried to render aid, but Phan was dead, police said.

About 90 minutes later, a man sitting in a car near the Cafe Metro was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police on Tuesday identified him as The Vu, 39. Phan and Vu were shot by the same caliber weapon, and investigators were waiting for ballistics tests to determine whether the gun found with Vu was used to kill Phan before declaring the case a murder-suicide, city spokeswoman Susan Finarelli said.

But if Vu was the killer, investigators don’t know why. “We don’t have anything yet,” Finarelli said. “That’s why police are looking to talk to folks about the relationship between the two men, to determine what they may have been fighting over.”

The shooting started about 9:55 p.m. as Phan, a bass player, and Hai Tran, a guitarist, were emerging from Phan’s car and walking into the Viet Star restaurant to play a show. Tran said he heard two shots, hit the ground, then ran into Viet Star.

The witness said Monday that he did not see Phan get out of the car but did see the gunman walk over to Phan’s car, then pull a gun and start firing. He did not recognize the gunman, who he said chased Phan through the flagpoles holding Vietnamese and U.S. flags in the middle of the parking lot, and he couldn’t tell whether Phan had been wounded by the first shots.

The witness, also a musician, said that he’d known Phan since 1994 and that “he’s a good guy. No drugs. Sometimes drink a beer with us.” He said he was speaking up because “I don’t want people looking at that and thinking musicians are connected with gangsters. We really need to know why it happened.”

The Falls Church police asked that anyone with information about the incident call 703-248-5053.

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