Ex-South Vietnamese Housing Official Shot

Times Staff Writers

A former South Vietnamese housing official, denounced recently in Vietnamese newspapers in Orange County for "suggesting cooperation with the Marxist government (in Vietnam)," was shot and wounded near his Westminster real estate office, police said Wednesday.

Detectives said they have not determined a motive but have not ruled out the possibility that the shooting Tuesday night of Tran Khanh Van was an assassination attempt, extortion, robbery or a personal dispute.

"The motive is rather nebulous right now," Westminster Police Sgt. Bob Burnett said.

Van was shot in the stomach and shoulder. He "should be able to recover pretty good," Burnett said, adding, "But he was lucky."

He said Van, 40, of Santa Ana was in a parking lot when he scuffled with a young Vietnamese man. Four to six shots were fired from a handgun, before the man fled. So far, there are no witnesses.

During a brief interview with investigators at Fountain Valley Community Hospital on Tuesday night, Van "did not indicate" that he knew or recognized his assailant or that he believed the attack was politically motivated, Burnett said.

"He says he has received some threats but so far, hasn't been able to determine where they're coming from," Burnett said.

Members of the Orange County Vietnamese community said they felt certain that Van, former director general of housing in Saigon, was shot by someone outraged by his comments in the Jan. 5 Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine.

"The only way to change Vietnam's repressive Marxism is to work with those who will become the next generation of leaders," Van was quoted as saying. "It's illogical that Vietnamese should still want to kill each other. What's important is that 15% of the children in my country are retarded due to malnutrition. If we make small contributions now, perhaps larger ones could follow."

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