[UPDATED With Sentences for Co-Horts] Stephenson Choi Kim Convicted, Could Get Death for Randomly Killing Diner and Trying to Kill Six Others
The six friends with Asian street-gang memberStephenson Choi Kim
before, during and after the 31-year-old San Gabriel resident killed a woman and tried to kill six other people were looking at life-in-prison sentences following their arrests.
However, each testified against the shooter in the unprovoked attack at a Cypress café in 2004. Now, in a deal with prosecutors, all have pleaded guilty to the charges against them and have been sentenced to five to 11 years in prison. But for some, that will mean immediate releases as they have already served seven years behind bars at Orange County Jail.
Robin Kim, 28, of Cerritos, handed Choi the murder weapon and picked him after the shootings. He got the 11 years, the rest of which will be served at a California prison.
Ashil Manek Nair, 26, of Cerritos tried to pick a fight with the victims before bullets started flying. He got eight years. Glenn Lamuel Watkins, 24, of Lakewood, carried a gun into the café. He received a six-year sentence. That was also the sentence handed to Christopher Ung, 27, of Lakewood, who handed the gun to Watkins, and Wilson Sun, 28, of Lakewood, who drove the gang caravan that night.
Chakris Kanchanapoomi, 27, of Long Beach, got five years for essentially hanging out with the others that night.
A jury last week deadlocked on the death penalty for Kim. His friends will be compelled to testify against him if the Orange County district attorney's office refiles for the ultimate penalty. They will not have to testify if a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is sought.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 15, 7:44 A.M.: Asian street-gang member Stephenson Choi Kim, 31, of San Gabriel, was convicted Monday of killing a woman and trying to kill six other people in an unprovoked shooting at a Cypress café that could send Kim to Death Row.
The jury heard evidence that a confession letter addressed to the police and media was found on Kim's computer after his arrest; Kim sent a note, or "kite," while in jail calling out a co-defendant as a "snitch"; Kim also wrote, "Don't worry. I'm making sure the witnesses don't testify."
The Weekly first mentioned the case here:
- Orange County District Attorney Boasts Release of First iPhone App Developed by a Prosecutorial Agency
While prosecutors seek the death penalty for Kim, his co-defendants face life in prison without parole. They are: Robin Kim, 28, of Cerritos; Christopher Ung, 27, of Lakewood; Wilson Sun, 28, of Lakewood; Chakris Kanchanapoomi, 27, of Long Beach; Ashil Manek Nair, 26, of Cerritos; and Glenn Lamuel Watkins, 24, of Lakewood.
Venus Hyun, 22, and six friends were dining at 5th Wave Cafe in Cypress on March 14, 2004, when Nair and Watkins walked up to the table and asked if anyone belonged to a gang. One man said he did when he was younger, but not anymore.
The pair left, and shortly thereafter, Stephenson Kim walked in, pulled out a gun and shot all seven people. Hyun was shot in the back, but the bullet bounced off her shoulder blade and ultimately lodged in her brain. She died a couple of hours later at the hospital.
Four others in Hyun's party were shot, but they survived.
After the shooting, Stephenson Kim reunited with the other defendants, who celebrated the random acts of violence. Here is the Orange County district attorney's office's statement on his conviction:
March 14, 2011
ASIAN CRIMINAL STREET GANG MEMBER CONVICTED OF MURDERING WOMAN AND ATTEMPTING TO MURDER SIX OTHERS IN UNPROVOKED CAFÉ SHOOTING
*OCDA is seeking the death penalty in this case
SANTA ANA - An Asian criminal street gang member was convicted today of murdering one woman and attempting to murder six other people in an unprovoked shooting at a Cypress café. Stephenson Choi Kim, 31, San Gabriel, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of murder, six felony counts of attempted murder, one felony count of street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for murder for a criminal street gang purpose, the personal discharge of a firearm, discharge of a firearm by a gang member causing death, vicarious discharge of a firearm by a gang member causing great bodily injury, and criminal street gang activity. The Orange County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty in this case. The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, March 16, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Department C-44, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Six co-defendants face the same charges as Stephenson Kim in this case and a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. The co-defendants are Robin Kim, 28, Cerritos, Christopher Ung, 27, Lakewood, Wilson Sun, 28, Lakewood, Chakris Kanchanapoomi, 27, Long Beach, Ashil Manek Nair, 26, Cerritos, and Glenn Lamuel Watkins, 24, Lakewood.
On March 14, 2004, Stephenson Kim was drinking at a home with several members of his Asian criminal street gang including Robin Kim, Nair, Sun, Watkins, Kanchanapoomi, and Ung. The defendants left the home in several cars armed with firearms with the intent to fight with rival gang members.
At the 5th Wave Café in Cypress, 22-year-old Venus Hyun was enjoying dinner with six friends. Nair and Watkins entered the café and approached the victims to ask if any were gang members. Victim Richard Woodhead explained that he had previously been connected to a criminal street gang, but said that he "didn't bang anymore" and the two gangs were not enemies. Nair and Watkins left the café and told Stephenson Kim about the conversation they had inside.
Stephenson Kim took a firearm and entered the crowded café. The other defendants waited outside as Robin Kim drove to the rear entrance to wait for Stephenson Kim. Stephenson Kim approached the table where Hyun was sitting with her friends and began to shoot at the seven people at the table. Stephenson Kim murdered Hyun by shooting her in the back. The bullet entered her body, bounced off her shoulder blade, and ultimately lodged in her brain. Hyun collapsed and died a few hours later at the hospital.
Stephenson Kim also shot Jean Lee in the back. The bullet went through the victim's body and exited her chest. Stephenson Kim shot Michael Paek in the hand and John Chung in the arm. When Ronald Woodhead attempted to wrestle the firearm from the defendant, Stephenson Kim shot the victim in the stomach. These four victims survived the shootings. Stephenson Kim missed victims Richard Woodhead and Kung Yoo as he shot at the group of friends.
Stephenson Kim fled out the back door to the car where Robin Kim was waiting. All of the defendants returned to the original home to congratulate Stephenson Kim for the shooting. Eventual anonymous tips led to the arrest of all of the defendants by the Cypress Police Department.
During the trial, the People presented evidence that a confession letter addressed to the police and media was found on the defendant's computer after his arrest. The People also presentenced evidence that Stephenson Kim sent a note, or "kite," while in jail awaiting trial to co-defendant Watkins stating that he believed Watkins was a "snitch." He also wrote, "Don't worry. I'm making sure the witnesses don't testify."
Senior Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.