Armed with a baseball bat and a mop handle, members of the Asian Crips criminal street gang attacked a group of men and women outside the Asian Garden Mall in Little Saigon on Thanksgiving 2001 and murdered one of the victims.
The crime went unsolved for eight years until Westminster Police Department detective Tim Walker, arguably one of the nation's best Asian gang experts, used cell phone records to unravel the case and identify Tri Trong Huynh as a solid suspect.
During interviews with Walker, Huynh--a convicted burglar--initially claimed that he hadn't been at the mall that day and wasn't an Asian Crips hoodlum, an assertion undermined by the "AC" prominently tattooed on his back.
Walker was relentless in his questioning and, months later, Huynh eventually claimed that he'd been jumped into the gang after the killing, that he'd gotten a call to go to the Asian Garden Mall with three Crips on the day of the crime to collect a debt and that he'd been mildly violent at the murder scene before fleeing, according to court records.
Believing that Huynh is the person who struck the fatal, mop handle blow to Kevin Eng's skull, Walker arrested him. Witnesses testified that the defendant had used the stick during the crime and a 2010 jury found him guilty of murder, gang membership, street terrorism and use of a deadly weapon. Later, Orange County Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg sentenced him to prison.
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Hunyh appealed his convictions, claiming the prosecutor committed misconduct and that his defense lawyer had been inept for not attempting to undermine Walker's gang expert testimony.
On May 31, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana issued a 14-page ruling that rejected Huynh's arguments.
Upshot: The Asian Crip, who is now 30 years old, will continue to serve his life sentence at the California State Prison at Sacramento. Huynh won't ever return to society. Froeberg made sure he is ineligible for parole.