Man Convicted in Gang Slaying in Annandale in 2002
Friday, March 24, 2006
An Asian gang member who shot and killed a rival gang member in 2002, then fled to Canada for more than two years, was convicted yesterday of first-degree murder by a Fairfax County jury.
The jury then recommended that Henh Ngo, 22, of Springfield be sentenced to 26 years in prison -- 23 years for murder and three years for using a gun during a felony. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush will sentence Ngo on May 25. Under Virginia law, she may not increase but could decrease the jury's recommended sentence.
Prosecutors told the jury that members of a gang called Asian Young and Dangerous, or AYD, jumped and pummeled two members of the gang Asian Dragon Family, or ADF, at Springfield Mall in mid-December 2002. One of the victims in that case was Ngo, then 19 years old and well-known in the gang community as "Phi Lu," or "Fat Guy," witnesses testified.
The Springfield Mall incident set the stage for a fatal confrontation outside the Happi Billiards & Cafe in Annandale on Dec. 27, 2002. Three members of AYD emerged from the pool hall about 10 p.m., two of them testified this week, and were eyed by members of ADF. The AYD members walked to their car and started to leave.
But the driver, Ngoc Quy Doan Nguyen, 21, stopped the car when he realized he'd left his glasses in the pool hall. While he darted inside, a man walked over and knocked on the car windows, trying to get the two passengers -- Phuc Nguyen and Hoan Le -- to speak to him. They ignored him, they testified.
Ngoc Nguyen then returned to the car. His friends said they watched as Henh Ngo walked around to the driver, asked if he were a member of AYD and fired one shot into Ngoc Nguyen's head. They said Ngo then fired two shots through the front windshield, missing them both, before fleeing.
The two young witnesses acknowledged that their first call was not to 911 but to another member of AYD, "Tiny." After calling police, they then notified another gang member while they waited for the police to arrive. Initially, one officer testified, Phuc Nguyen said he did not know who shot Ngoc Nguyen. The two are not related.
But once away from the crime scene, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John R. Murphy pointed out, both Phuc Nguyen and Le identified the shooter as Ngo, and both picked him out of photo lineups.
"They've always said 'Phi Lu' did it," Murphy told the jury, saying that they knew Ngo from previous encounters. "These two witnesses witnessed a horrible crime. They saw a young friend of theirs executed for revenge."
Ngo did not testify in his defense. He was arrested near Toronto in February 2005 by Canadian police, who said they were investigating him as a suspected drug dealer.
One of Ngo's attorneys, Peter D. Greenspun, said the actions of the two witnesses made it seem that they didn't really know who had killed their friend.
"You don't wait" to call police, Greenspun argued. "You don't call Tiny, you don't call Tony. You call 911 and you say, 'My friend was shot and it was Phi Lu. It was Phi Lu.' That's common sense."
The jury deliberated for about 5 1/2 hours before reaching its verdict.