MURDER, THEY WROUGHT
As Vanderpool collapsed, Captain Michael Tracy leaped to his feet. The abrupt move startled Fukuto who panicked and shot the officer in the chest. The bullet pierced Tracy's heart, bringing instant death.
The other officers still remained uncertain whether the gunman, shots and fallen colleagues were not part of an elaborately staged exercise drill. They sat still, stunned and bewildered, trying to interpret sights, sounds and behavior.
Finally, determining the attack was real, an officer charged Fukuto, tackled him to the carpet and wrestled for the gun. In rapid succession, two more officers dove onto the assailant, while a third began kicking him in the head.
"There were three people, or whatever number, on this guy, and it looked like he was giving them everything that they could handle," Mathis, the psychologist, later told police investigators. "He had not given up. He was a frightening guy. He was still kicking and struggling and the guys were laying on him like packs of meat. I still saw the gun in his hand. I think he would have moved that gun if he could have moved his arm. It would have killed us."
After a prolonged struggle, Fukuto stopped moving, his face turned purple and his tongue protruded, a blue muscle dangling from his mouth. A recently arrived Torrance police officer failed to find a pulse on him. Fukuto, it was later determined, died from asphyxia and head injuries. An investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney absolved the officers from blame for Fukuto's death.
On December 31, 1992, in the early evening, Robert Chan, then 18, waited for his victim to arrive. He had allegedly spent the past week plotting this crime. He had persuaded four friends to help him-Charles Choe, 18; Kirn Young Kim, 18; Mun Bong Kang, 19; and Abraham Acosta, 17. They all attended Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, where Chan was a contender for class valedictorian.
The five students sat in the garage of the Acosta family's spacious home in Fullerton, an upper middle class city in Orange County. They waited. They eyed each other. They examined the sledge hammer, fingered the duck tape, watched dust settle on the bottle of rubbing alcohol. Occasionally, one would stroll into the backyard to scrutinize the shallow grave they had dug that afternoon.
Shortly after dark their victim, Stuart Tay, 17, an honors student at Foothill High School in Santa Ana, stepped into the garage.
Tay had introduced himself to Chan months earlier as a fledgling criminal figure, bragging of having killed 100 loyal followers, of his ability to pirate computer programs and counterfeit $100 bills, driver licenses and credit cards. He had also boasted that he had access to explosives and power weapons. He had asked Chan to join him, and attempting to demonstrate his clout, Tay procured private information about Chan, like his home address, details about his clothing and knowledge about a crush Chan once had on a cheerleader.
When Tay had confronted Chan with this information, Chan felt threatened and, out of fear, agreed to help Tay rob a successful computer salesman. They had arranged to meet in Acosta's garage to plan the burglary. When Tay arrived that evening, he had expected to find Chan alone, but Chan, fearing his life was in danger, had engineered other plans.
As Tay entered the garage, the boys exchanged greetings, and then without provocation, one of them swung the sledge hammer into Tay's shoulder. Tay staggered backwards and cried, "Hey, what have I ever done to you?" The sledge hammer thudded against his back, and the boys proceeded to bludgeon him into unconsciousness, as blood and gore splattered over the walls and cement floor.
Tay collapsed, and Chan allegedly poured rubbing alcohol into his mouth and duck-taped it shut. Tay drowned as the harsh liquid filled his lungs.
The boys dragged the corpse into the backyard and heaved it into the grave. To delude the police, they drove Tay's car to Compton, stripped it and left it in an alley.
Within two weeks, however, the police had followed a sloppy trail of poorly disguised clues to Chan and his accomplices. Chan is currently being tried.
On a cool March day in 1994, a stoic Tuan Nguyen, 29, stood at the employee entrance of Extron Electronic, a computer assembly plant in Santa Fe Springs, an industrial Los Angeles suburb. Clutching a high caliber pistol in one hand, Nguyen opened the door by punching the five-digit, secret code given to employees and entered the building, planing to slay his former supervisor. The supervisor had fired Nguyen two weeks earlier for his poor job performance. PAGE 3