Gang Member Is Sentenced to Death for Killing 4

Times Staff Writer

Anh The "Fat John" Duong, an Orange County gang member who gunned down four birthday partyers at an El Monte pool hall four years ago, was sentenced to death Friday.

Duong, 28, apologized to the families of all but one victim in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pomona before Judge Robert Martinez agreed with a jury and sentenced him to die.

Duong, who federal authorities say operated a large jewel and computer component theft ring, did not apologize for killing a man he had argued with before the shootings.

Despite that omission, defense lawyer Gary Meastas argued that his client was remorseful and should be spared.

Duong's chaotic childhood, which included evacuation from war-torn Vietnam as a youth, a gambling addiction and drug problems, all argued for leniency, Meastas said.

Prosecutors, however, "think the court imposed the appropriate sentence," said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.

Under state law, death penalties are automatically appealed.

Jurors found that Duong walked into the packed International Club and came upon a group of strangers celebrating a friend's birthday on May 6, 1999.

He began arguing with Minh Tran, 28, of West Covina and stunned the group when he drew a .45-caliber handgun and shot him.

Duong then turned his weapon on Hao Trang, 28, of El Monte; Robert Norman, 20, of Garden Grove; and Lan Cang, 23, of Long Beach.

Duong fled, triggering a nationwide manhunt that was featured on "America's Most Wanted."

He was arrested in 2001 while playing basketball at a 24 Hour Fitness in Costa Mesa.

Duong is awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges and accusations that he caused the death of at least two people in a series of Bay Area robberies, officials said.

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