The owner of a Falls Church jewelry store, whose family was victimized in the region's latest violent home-invasion robbery of Asians, said yesterday that his family was confronted by at least four gunmen in the garage of their Fairfax County home.
"He said, 'If you cooperate with me everything will be all right. If you don't I will kill you,' " the man said. The gunman then fired his gun at the ceiling. "The guy ran around to my side and put a gun to my head. He said, 'Cooperate, cooperate or I will kill you.' "
The man asked not to be identified for fear the gunmen would come back and kill him. Yesterday, Fairfax police said the two people arrested in the robbery that began Friday and ended in a shootout with police Saturday afternoon were from Orange County, Calif.
The men, identified as Trung Viet Cao, 19, and Charlie Hung Vu, 23, have each been charged with a raft of offenses, including several counts of abduction and robbery. They were being held yesterday in lieu of $525,000 bond each at the county jail, police said.
The incident was the most recent home-invasion robbery in which members of the Asian community have been targeted. In home invasions, victims typically are ambushed at home, tied with appliance cords and robbed of gold and jewelry. Police said nine such robberies have been reported in the county this year.
An outstanding warrant charging Cao with strong-armed robbery is on file with the police department in Westminster, Calif., Detective Marcus Frank said. The investigator, who specializes in Asian crime and gangs, said the alleged crime was a "chain-grab," a common crime in the Asian community in which jewelry is snatched off victims' necks.
Police said the incident in Virginia began about 9 p.m. Friday when several gunmen burst into the home of the jewelry store owner, held the family overnight, then drove the store owner to the Bach Tuyet jewelry store in Falls Church. While the gunmen drove the man to the store, the family called police. When police arrived at the Eden Center, a group of restaurants and stores known across the country as a cultural hub for the Asian community, they saw two men and the owner in the jewelry store.
Fairfax police Capt. David Franklin said one of the men tried to flee, and was arrested. The other, he said, came out of the store and began firing at police. Police returned fire and wounded him, he said. The wounded man ran into a restaurant next to the jewelry story and took five people hostage, police said. All but one of the hostages were released minutes later. After several telephone discussions with police negotiators, the gunman released his last hostage and surrendered.
The man, who said he came to this country 15 years ago from Vietnam, said he had closed his jewelry shop in the Eden Center about 7 p.m. Friday. He, his wife and his mother-in-law arrived at their house in Fairfax County about 9 p.m.
The man said when he entered his driveway he noticed one garage door was open halfway. As he pulled into the garage, he said, one man opened the car door where his mother-in-law sat; another opened his wife's door. A third gunman put a gun to the man's head.
The man said he considered putting his car in reverse and knocking down the gunmen, but realized that his son and daughter were in the house. "I say, 'Everything you want, I will satisfy you. Just don't harm us,' " he said.
The man said the gunmen forced him inside the house, where he saw his 26-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter laying in the hallway. As the gunmen questioned them about where they kept valuables, the man said, his son became very angry. "My son called them chicken and asked them, 'Why you just come and rob Asian people? Why don't you rob other people? You want to kill me, kill me.' "
None of the robbery victims was injured in the incident.
Experts in Asian crime say members of that community, particularly Vietnamese, are vulnerable for cultural reasons. Many Vietnamese are fearful of authority figures such as police because of experiences in their homeland and are reluctant to report such crimes, police say. Although the custom is changing, Asians at one time kept their life's savings in gold because they did not trust banks.
Yesterday at the Eden Center, several people said they were afraid. Some said gang members hang out at the shopping center and gamble during the day. Others feared that gang members identify store owners and follow them home.
"I'm scared somebody will follow," said one shop owner. "We're so careful."
"People are very scared, of course," said a clerk at a pharmacy store. "It has happened before, but that was on the other side. Everybody should be more careful."
Another store owner said, "You never have any idea when they follow you. If they follow you, you don't know. Of course everybody is afraid. When it happens, it happens. There is nothing you can do about it."