Drug Agent Killed in Shoot-Out Pleaded for His Life, Survivor Says
One of two federal drug agents shot to death by suspected heroin traffickers during an aborted narcotics buy pleaded with the gunmen to spare the agents’ lives, but was shot seconds after the agents handed over $80,000 in drug money, according to documents filed Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court.
Special Agent Paul Seema told the two assailants, “Please don’t kill us,” then repeated the plea, according to an account from a third agent, Jose F. Martinez, who survived.
One of the suspects at that point told the Drug Enforcement Administration agents to “shut the . . . up or we will kill you.” Within seconds after the money was handed over, according to the account, the two assailants looked at each other “as though it was a mutual understanding or a predesignated signal to start shooting.”
Seema and Special Agent George Montoya were fatally wounded in the subsequent gunfire that shattered the quiet of a well-to-do Pasadena neighborhood. Martinez was wounded.
One of the suspects, Win Wei Wang, who also goes by William Wang, was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault in connection with Friday’s shoot-out.
Wang, himself shot eight times by pursuing officers minutes after the alleged attack, appeared before a federal magistrate in his hospital room and was ordered held without bail.
In an affidavit filed to support the federal murder charges, investigators disclosed that Wang, an 18-year-old student at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, confessed to shooting two of the agents as part of a plan to rob the three men, whom he and his partners believed to be drug dealers.
Wang’s alleged partner in the assault, Wen Heui Kow, 26, was one of two suspects killed in a second shoot-out that followed the pursuit.
Police announced Tuesday that they have released three additional suspects arrested in Monterey Park shortly after the shootings, all Taiwanese nationals, to the custody of federal immigration authorities.
The three were identified as Michael Soo, 20, of Alhambra, Jimmy Chien Sun, 19, also of Alhambra and Linda Lynn Cheng, 20, of San Gabriel.
DEA officials said it is not known whether they will face criminal charges in the case.
“The only thing I can say really is they weren’t involved in the actual assassination of the agents,” DEA spokesman Roger Guevara said. “I would assume they were there to provide security for the rip-off.”
Wang’s attorney, Michael Meza, said he is skeptical about whether the confession authorities claim to have obtained from Wang was voluntary.
Shot Eight Times
“Mr. Wang was shot eight times. Once in the face, once in the arm, twice in the leg, his leg was broken, he was also shot four times in the back. They told him that he was going to die, and they asked for a statement from him at that time,” Meza said.
“In my mind, there’s an issue of voluntariness there, not to mention the fact that he was probably sedated,” he said.
Meza said he is also seeking additional information about the shoot-out in which Wang was injured, which occured moments after backup officers pursued Wang, Kow and 17-year-old Michael Sun into San Marino, killing Sun and Kow.
“It appears that (the suspects’) handguns were probably emptied at the scene of the alleged rip-off, and there’s no indication that there was any ammunition found in the red Nissan (driven by the suspects),” Meza said.
“There was a lot of shooting going on and I don’t know whether there was any retaliation from my client or anyone else in that car. So obviously these are all questions that have to be answered,” the lawyer said.
Guevara said he believes that the suspects’ returned the pursuing agents’ fire, both during the 90-m.p.h. chase and after their car ran up a sidewalk about a mile from where the agents were shot.
“It was my understanding that the agents were being fired at and obviously they returned the fire,” Guevara said. “Obviously, there were more agents there at that point than there were suspects.”
The affidavit signed by DEA agent Jack C. Page, based on interviews with Martinez and Wang, provides the only firsthand account so far of Friday’s events.
According to the interview with Martinez, Kow inspected the $80,000 the undercover agents had brought with them for the purported heroin purchase and then accompanied the agents in their white Volvo, directing them to a house in Pasadena where he said he had the heroin stashed.
Gun Pulled Out
Martinez pulled over and stopped, and said he saw a red Nissan that had apparently been following them pull off to the right about 50 to 100 feet behind.
Kow got out of the car, supposedly to get the heroin, but as he was getting out, Martinez saw him pull out a gun. At the same time, Martinez said he saw in the rear view mirror a man get out of the Nissan and approach the Volvo.
Martinez said he “realized that a ‘rip-off’ was going down.” Kow and his companion, whom agents now believe was Wang, told the agents to put their hands up in the air. Kow, pointing his gun at Montoya’s neck, then said, “ ‘Give me the money or we will shoot,’ ” according to the affidavit.
Montoya handed over the money and seconds later, six or seven shots were fired. Martinez bailed out of the car, pulled his own pistol and ran toward a tree in an attempt to escape.
Felt Something Warm
He said he felt something warm running down his leg which he assumed was blood, though he did not know until later that he had been shot in both calves.
Kow and his associate ran back to the Nissan, and Martinez turned and fired five rounds at the fleeing car. He started to reload, but collapsed and fell to the ground.
In his interview with Page, according to the affidavit, Wang said the shooting occurred as part of a plan to rob three men they presumed to be drug dealers. It was also part of the plan that the men would be killed during the robbery, the affidavit said.
“Wang shot the passenger in the front of the Volvo, and also shot the passenger in the back seat of the Volvo. Wang stated that he believed he also shot the driver, who was trying to escape from the vehicle,” the affidavit said.
Wang’s father, Ratmon Wang, a Taiwanese immigrant who owns a Chinese restaurant in Kansas City, Mo., said in an interview Tuesday that his son was “a good boy” who had moved to Hacienda Heights to live with his mother only last summer.
‘He Played Basketball’
“I really didn’t think this kind of thing could happen to my son,” he said. “He helped me in the restaurant, he studied in school, he played basketball,” he said.
“No matter: I need a busboy, he do busboy. I need a waiter, he do waiter. I need a dishwasher, he do dishes. Never argue with me.”
Wang said his son liked to draw and had persuaded him to pay his air fare to Los Angeles by promising to enroll in an art school.
Kow, 26, had been working as a janitor at a Pasadena motel, said Rich Lee, a Monterey Park jeweler who knew Kow casually through mutual friends.
Kow, he said, was a bright young man, but he drank a lot.
“I saw him sometimes fall down in the street,” said Lee, 44, who occasionally loaned Kow money.
“I said, ‘You cannot do it this way. Drink a little beer--that’s OK.’ He’d say, ‘Yes, yes.’ But you cannot control this kind of person.”
Times staff writer Edmund Newton contributed to this article.