Worker dispute led to barbershop shooting, Fairfax police say

April 14, 2011

A man who allegedly opened fire Wednesday at a Fairfax County barbershop, killing one man and wounding another, was an ex-employee motived by a dispute with his former co-workers, police said Thursday.

Hung T. Nguyen, 44, of the 7800 block of Heritage Drive in Annandale, surrendered at the county’s Sully District police station about 11 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said. He was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of barber Le D. Hoang, 39, of the Alexandria section of Fairfax, and he will soon be facing other charges in the shooting and wounding of Hoang’s 38-year-old co-worker, authorities said.

The wounded co-worker, whom police did not identify, is expected to survive, authorities said.

Officer Tawny Wright, a Fairfax police spokeswoman, said Nguyen used to work at the barbershop in the 1600 block of Belle View Boulevard, but left voluntarily within the last few months. She said detectives think he returned to the shop and opened fire after 2 p.m. Wednesday because of a dispute with employees at the shop. She declined to elaborate.

The shooting rocked the close-knit group of grocers, jewelers and other retailers who work in the quiet strip mall in Fairfax’s Alexandria section. On Thursday, someone had affixed a piece of notebook paper to the barbershop's front door that read “Closed Today.” People inside declined to comment.

Truc Ngo, who works at a nearby nail salon, said employees of the barbershop told her that the shooter came by Wednesday to pick up a tax document. She said she was told that he had “some problem” with his former co-workers, but didn’t know the details. NBC4 reported that Nguyen’s roommate had shared letters he wrote with the TV station indicating the shooting “stemmed from an incident involving the suspect’s lunch being thrown away.”

No one answered the door at Nguyen’s home on Thursday. Two women who pulled up in a car said they lived there, but they knew only that Nguyen rented a room. Family members could not be reached.

A neighbor of Hoang’s who declined to be identified to protect his privacy said Hoang and Nguyen were friends, and Nguyen would occasionally visit Hoang at his townhouse. He said nothing seemed amiss with either man.

Hoang, the neighbor said, came to the United States from Vietnam in the mid-1990s with his mother, father and three younger siblings. He said the family felt unsafe in Vietnam.

In the United States, though, the family prospered, the neighbor said. Hoang and his siblings all attended college, he said.

A man who said he used to live with Nguyen on Heritage Drive described Nguyen as a “good man” with a “hot temper.” He said he had eaten lunch with Nguyen, who is single and has no children, on the day of the shooting and that Nguyen seemed “a little sad.”

But the former roommate said it wasn’t unusual for Nguyen, who he said seemed unhappy living in the United States. He said Nguyen never talked to him about the barbershop, including on the day of the shooting.

The former roommate said Nguyen had recently returned from Vietnam and was staying elsewhere. The neighbor said Hoang, who was single, was living with relatives in the family home on Staghorn Court.

“They’re all good people,” the neighbor said. “They really supported each other.”

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis and staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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