Across the world every day, millions of people play online video games with groups of friends or complete strangers, connected only by the Internet and their headphones. Players compete against each other or in teams, in games such as “League of Legends,” “World of Warcraft” or “Counter Strike: Global Offensive.” Though players can’t see each other, they can hear plenty.
It can get intense, but rarely as intense as it got Saturday night among a group of players.
That evening, Cody Ha and his online buddies were playing a video game and chatting with each other late into the night through their headsets. Even though Ha, 23, lived in Kansas, he would play with friends located hundreds of miles away — in Texas and Canada, his friends told the Wichita Eagle.
Sometimes, the other players would hear the doorbell ring at Ha’s house in Wichita, where he lived with his 62-year-old mother, Huong Pham, and his 22-year-old sister. There always seemed to be people coming and going from the home.
“Just give me a few minutes,” Ha would say, his longtime friend Tommy Ong recounted to the Wichita Eagle.
But at about 10 p.m., Ha’s online friends heard something much noisier than anything in their make-believe world — a popping sound through their headphones so loud that it hurt their ears. They were gunshots and they were not make believe.
They called Ha’s phone, but all it did was ring, one of the gamers, Ashley Martinez, told the Eagle.
Then an hour later, from his perch in Houston, Martinez heard the voice of a woman. It was Ha’s sister, arriving home in Wichita to a gruesome scene.
In front of her were her mother and brother, unresponsive and covered in blood, Wichita Police Lt. Todd Ojile later said in a news conference. Someone had shown up at the home and fatally shot both Ha and Pham, Ojile said.
“She was panicking,” Martinez said of the sister, “she was on the phone. She said she didn’t want to touch them. She said she didn’t feel safe.”
Police were dispatched to the scene that night. The next morning, Martinez and his friend spoke with a Wichita detective to recount what they heard. Authorities have not made any arrests in connection with the killings, but are calling the deaths a double homicide. They have not yet disclosed a possible motive.
Speaking to Wichita news station KAKE, Ong said that from what he could tell, Ha had been answering the door for “someone that wanted maybe prescription drugs from his mom.”
“He answered the door and that’s when it happened,” Ong said.
Ong told the Wichita Eagle that Ha had talked about other occasions in which visitors arrived wanting to buy prescription medications or tablets, as recently as last week. His mother would give Ha some of the proceeds, Ong said. Police have not confirmed that prescription drugs may have been involved in the killing.
“It’s a pretty quiet neighborhood and there was always people coming and going from that house,” a resident, Angie Young, told news station KWCH. “So we just kept an eye, but nothing that ever seemed too scary that we would be concerned about to report or anything.”
In addition to the double homicide, two other people were killed in Wichita over the weekend, in a string of killings that have confounded police.
A Pizza Hut delivery driver, Hasan Rahman, was found shot to death in the trunk of his car on Sunday morning after making two deliveries in the area the previous night, Ojile said in a Monday news conference.
The killing happened only three blocks from Ha and Pham’s house.
Police do not yet have any evidence to show that the killings are related. But Ojile acknowledged that they took place very close to each other and said that “we are looking to see if it is connected at all.”
“This is out of the ordinary, and it’s strange, so we are looking at every angle, why this happened and what could have occurred,” Ojile said in a press briefing Monday. “We still have a lot of answers that we need to get and we are still interviewing individuals.”
The other death took place in what police are calling a domestic violence incident. Bryena McQuitty, 25, was killed at a home Sunday morning. Police have charged her boyfriend with second-degree murder.
Residents told local media outlets that violent crime is rare in Ha’s neighborhood, with its well-kept yards, large homes and private swimming pool. The Eagle described the family’s home as a gray-blue house on a street lined with tall oak trees. Wind chimes and plots of cactus and statuary could be seen in the front yard and porch.
But Pham also seemed to have come across trouble in the past. In February 2014, the mother alleged that a woman threatened her “after I talked about the money owed my family,” the Wichita Eagle reported. She received a temporary protection-from-stalking order. She alleged that the woman hired someone to cause her harm. Around that same time, someone shattered windows in one Pham’s family-run businesses and slashed her son’s car tires, she wrote in a court petition cited by the Wichita Eagle.
During the day, Ha would work at his mother’s dry cleaning stores. And through the night, he would play video games with his friends, catching up with them about their shared interests.
“He’s always been one of the nicest, inclusive, down to earth persons I’ve ever met,” Ong told KAKE. “He’d always keep a cool temper.”
“I’m hoping that his father and his sister . . . recover from this,” Ong said. “May they be able to move on.”
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