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Raid Terrifies Orange Family : Law enforcement: Man says home was ransacked. Federal agency concedes suspects had moved out weeks ago but denies wrongdoing.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Federal agents looking for gang members allegedly ransacked the apartment of a Vietnamese immigrant family early Wednesday before realizing that the suspects had already moved out, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.

Henry Truong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, said two dozen law enforcement officers raided his apartment around 6 a.m. Wednesday and left his wife and two infant children terrified. The officers left, Truong said, when they apparently realized that the suspects they were looking for had moved out of the same apartment only weeks earlier.

“They left after about 35 minutes and said, ‘Have a nice day,’ ” said Truong, 28. “My wife was so scared she cannot talk about it. She is very afraid.”

Officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed Wednesday that a raid had taken place at the apartment in the 1800 block of East Adams Avenue and that the unidentified gang members being sought no longer live there. Truong said his family had moved into the apartment just eight days ago.

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Tom Gerrity, assistant special agent at the ATF’s Los Angeles district office, denied that officers in the raid had done anything wrong or mistreated the Truong family.

“We didn’t litter the place, and we didn’t treat anyone roughly,” Gerrity said. “We don’t rough up people.”

But Truong and his attorney, Shawn Steel of Los Angeles, told a different story. Truong said he was handcuffed during the raid and forced to sit on the concrete sidewalk outside the apartment.

His wife, Thanh, also was ordered outside but was not handcuffed, Truong said. He said their children, 3-year-old Louise and 8-month-old Caroline, were left inside and began screaming after the parents were taken away.

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Steel charged that the ATF had not done its homework before the raid.

“This apartment was vacant for almost a month, and Henry and his family just moved in here eight days ago,” Steel said. “Henry is an electrical engineer--a USC graduate--and he’s one of the straightest guys you could meet. He’s an American citizen and a registered voter. The ATF officers have never apologized for this; they should be here right now offering an apology.”

Steel also charged that officers “rushed the house, and they started ransacking the house, emptying every closet and every drawer.”

Gerrity noted that ATF agents had a legal warrant to search the apartment.

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“A magistrate issued the warrant, and it was on probable cause,” Gerrity said. He added that it was only after going to the apartment that officers learned that the suspects “no longer live there.”

Bob Wall, an assistant special agent from the ATF’s Los Angeles district office, denied that any agents physically searched any drawers or closets in the apartment.

“There was no physical search whatsoever,” Wall said. He said that agents simply looked around the apartment and left after determining that the suspects being sought no longer lived there.

But Steel charged that the apartment was virtually littered by the raiding officers.

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“Henry, after he went to work today (Wednesday), called the (ATF) bureau,” Steel said. “He wanted them to come back to his apartment and clean up the place. But all he could get was a machine--they were too busy raiding wrong homes, I suppose--so then he called me.”

Steel said he will file a $1-million damage claim for the Truongs against the federal agency “and any other police officers that may have been involved.”

Steel said about 20 to 30 officers were involved in the raid, but he is not sure they were all ATF agents. “They came in with guns drawn and wearing bulletproof vests,” Steel said.

The ATF’s Wall said he could not go into the specifics of the raid. “It’s an ongoing thing,” Wall said. “I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t.”

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Truong was left a copy of the search warrant, which noted that officers were searching for weapons and paraphernalia of an Asian gang.

Truong, a thin, slightly built man, said he immigrated to the United States in 1981 after escaping Vietnam by boat. He entered USC, majored in electrical engineering and graduated in 1987. He added that he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1989 and that he works for a computer manufacturing company in Irvine.

“I don’t know anything about gangs or guns,” Truong said. “I don’t even know how to shoot a gun.”

He said that before he escaped from South Vietnam after the communist takeover, his home there twice was raided by communist police.

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“I knew things like this happen over there,” Truong said. “I never expected it here.”


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