19-year-old father latest gang victim

Los Angeles Daily News

19-year-old father latest gang victim
By Ryan Oliver

Friday, July 26, 2002 – WINNETKA – Police and city officials are scrambling to find solutions to a recent spate of Valley gang violence that claimed another victim early Friday – a 19-year-old father who was gunned down as he desperately banged on the front door of his Winnetka home.

Authorities say Steve Nguyen may have been followed home from a cybercafe, where he’d played computer games and talked with his friends. Witnesses said an assailant in a red minivan fired at least six shots at Nguyen as he tried to get into the Lull Street home he shared with his parents, girlfriend and their young son.

“He wanted to be able to take care of his own son, and be a good father,’ said Charles Lee, 41, owner of the NetStreet Internet Cafe in Northridge, where Nguyen had been before his death. “He was going to continue his education – finish high school and go to college. He was really quiet and a decent person.’

Lee and Jonathan Young, 18, who worked with Nguyen at Fry’s Electronics in Woodland Hills, said the young man was not involved in a street gang.

“I knew all of his friends and none of them were gangbangers,’ Young said.

But homicide detectives and the LAPD’s Asian Gang Task Force were investigating the case.

Detectives also were looking for suspects in three incidents that left two men dead and two others wounded Thursday.

“There’s not a (gang) war going on across the Valley,’ said Cmdr. Michael Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Bureau. “There’s no relationship, one shooting to the other. They each have their own different story lines.’

And Assistant City Attorney Marty Vranicar, who heads his office’s anti-gang unit, said the county has already reactivated its interagency gang task force, and that his office is considering expanding its gang injunctions to try to head off the problem.

“Fortunately, we are all looking at taking quick action,’ Vranicar said. “Unlike the late ’80s and early ’90s when we seemed to let it go on, no one wants to do that now. We want to take quick action to stop this now. We’ve learned to respond quickly and not take our eye off the ball.’

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents the West Valley, said he was concerned about the potential of more violence, especially given the shortage of LAPD officers.

“I will be demanding additional personnel be put out here in the Valley to counter these gang problems. I’m not going to sit by and say that’s the way of life, because that’s not a way of life with me.’

Zine also criticized the city’s Bridges program, designed to work with 10- to 14-year-old students to prevent them from becoming gang members.

“It’s a $13 million program and I have only one school participating in my district,’ he said. “These gang members keep stretching their tentacles, and they’re moving into West Valley. We can counter it, we can correct it, it’s just going to take more resources here.’

Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said the shortage of officers in the LAPD is a problem faced by the entire city – not just the San Fernando Valley.

“This has been a major priority with the mayor,’ Middlebrook said. “We’re now trying to court more officers to stay in the department and we’re recruiting more.’

Moore, assistant commander of the LAPD’s Valley Bureau, said he did not believe a single violent day was an indication of an increasing trend.

He noted that the past couple of months have been relatively quiet in terms of gang violence.

Violent crime in the Valley over the past 30 days is down 16 percent over the same time period last year, he said, though it is up 3.3 percent over the course of the entire year – still less than the 8 percent experienced by the city as a whole.

“We have seen double-digit drops in all categories in the past 30 days,’ he said.

Still, Vranicar said, there has been much discussion over the need to revive gang truces. But City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and his staff question the effectiveness of the truces and the message they send.

“You legitimize the gang entity,’ Vranicar said. “Maybe some of them are sincere in wanting to knock down the violence. We can do that without recognizing gangs.’

Delgadillo recently had an exchange with two members of the Canoga Park-Alabama gang that shows how brazen the members have become, spokeswoman Ana Garcia said.

It occurred at a Beverly Hills hotel where Delgadillo was being honored by the Los Angeles Press Club.

“These two gang members came up to him and asked they be taken off the gang injunction and that the injunction be lifted,’ Garcia said. “They said the police were hassling them because of the way they dressed.

“(Delgadillo) told them it wasn’t their clothes. It was the CPA tattoo on their necks that caused them the problem and if they quit the gang and got a job, they would be removed from the injunction.’ , Staff Writers Rick Orlov and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this story

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