Ngoc Quy Doan Nguyen, 21, was murdered outside the Happi Billiards & Café on Little River Turnpike in Annandale 39 months ago. Last Thursday, March 23, a Fairfax Circuit Court jury convicted Henh Chu Ngo, 22 of Springfield, of first degree murder.
Moments after the jury gave its verdict, Ngoc Quy Nguyen’s father told the jury the pain of losing his son.
“Four years ago, I cried so much when my son passed away. Today, I am crying again because you, members of the jury, helped me find justice,” he said, through a Vietnamese translator during the sentencing portion of the trial.
“My wife has not been able to go to work for the last four years because she loved my son. I go to work every day, but it seems like half my body doesn’t follow.”
The jury recommended that Ngo serve 26 years in prison, 23 for murder and three for use of a firearm during commission of a felony.
Judge Jane Marum Roush is scheduled to formally sentence Ngo in May.
THE VICTIM and his two friends, Phuc Nguyen and Hoan Le played pool for nearly two hours before leaving to get something to eat the night of Dec. 27, 2002.
“When we came outside to the parking lot, that’s when everything happened,” said Phuc Nguyen, 21, the first of 12 witnesses in the four-day trial.
A former elementary school classmate from Bailey’s Elementary School approached him and asked if they were members of the Asian Young and Dangerous (AYD) street gang, testified Phuc Nguyen, 18 at the time of the murder.
“He asked me, ‘Are you AYD?’ I said I was never in it,” Phuc Nguyen testified.
His former classmate, a member of rival street gang Asian Dragon Family, said, “My boy was jumped last week,” testified Phuc Nguyen. “He said, ‘Bring your boys.’”
“I didn’t want to get caught in it,” Phuc Nguyen testified.
The victim and his two friends got into his white Honda Prelude and started to leave when Ngoc Quy Nguyen realized he left his glasses inside the pool hall. He left the car running with Phuc Nguyen in the passenger seat and Hoan Le in the back while he went inside.
Ngo came up to the passenger door, knocked on the window and told Phuc Nguyen to roll down the window. Ngo had his hand in his jacket, which “seemed suspicious at the time,” Phuc Nguyen said.
When Ngoc Quy Nguyen came back to his car, Ngo walked in front of the car and asked him if he a member of Asian Young and Dangerous. “I don’t think he said anything because I didn’t hear anything,” said Phuc Nguyen. “But then he shot Quy. I ducked down.”
Hoan Le saw sparks from Ngo’s gun. “After that, he fired two more shots at me and Phuc and all I could do was duck,” testified Hoan Le. He didn’t see his friend fall down.
When police arrived, Ngoc Quy Nguyen was unconscious and unresponsive, illuminated by the headlights of his car, which was still running. He suffered a gun shot to the head, testified Officer Chad Ellis.
Bullet fragments were retrieved from his jaw during the autopsy later that night.
Two bullet holes remained in the windshield of the victim’s car. Three bullet shell casings were found in front of the car.
BOTH FRIENDS told police they knew who the shooter was.
“He’s a well known guy,” testified Phuc Nguyen.
“I know for sure it was him,” testified Hoan Le.
Both believed the shooting was done in retaliation for an incident at Springfield Mall the week before when Ngo and another member of ADF was jumped by members of AYD.
Both identified Ngo during a photo lineup later that night, testified homicide detective David W. Allen.
“The two witnesses witnessed a horrible crime. … They saw a young friend of theirs executed for revenge,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney John Murphy.
Defense attorneys Peter Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro said that the two witnesses, associates of gang members, lacked credibility.
“We don’t think the Commonwealth has brought a full and substantial case here,” Greenspun said.
“The only proof the Commonwealth will be able to provide is the testimony of two men. The evidence will show there is reason to distrust what they say,” Jonathan Shapiro said during opening arguments. The witnesses were exacting revenge against a rival gang member by naming him, the defense argued.
But prosecutor Murphy said that Ngo chose the witnesses who could testify against him.
“This is an eye witness case and don’t let defense counsel fool you,” Murphy told the jury during closing arguments.
“They both did everything a witness could do,” he said.
The jury took 5 hours and 40 minutes before it returned its verdict.
Henh Chu Ngo, then 19, fled to Canada after the murder on Dec. 27, 2002. Ngo was arrested by Immigration Task Force officers in West Toronto on Feb. 10, 2005.