Gang member gets life in Costa Mesa murder

A Fountain Valley man was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his part in the 1995 death of a fellow Vietnamese street gang member.

Giang Thuy Nguyen, 37, had been found guilty April 10, 2012, of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A sentencing enhancement of murder to avoid arrest was found to be true, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

Co-defendants Anthony Paul Johnson, 37, of Westminster, Tam Hung Nguyen, 47, of Riverside, and Truc Ngoc Tran, 36, of Santa Ana, were previously sentenced to life in prison without the possibly of parole on the same charges.

The four killed fellow gang member Viet Nguyen on Feb. 25, 1995, in Costa Mesa because he fled from the group as they were allegedly committing while masked a home invasion robbery in Huntington Beach the day before, according to the statement.

The gang reportedly was robbing the home of Viet Nguyen's high school classmate the morning of Feb 24, 1995. He fled because he thought the victim of the robbery may have recognized him, the statement said.

That evening, Giang Nguyen, Johnson, Tran and Tam Nguyen conspired to murder Viet Nguyen in retaliation for fleeing that morning and to prevent him from pinning the robbery on Johnson and Giang Nguyen if he was identified and arrested, according to the district attorney's office.

On Feb. 25, Giang Nguyen and Johnson convinced Viet Nguyen to drive his van and with Tam Nguyen buy drugs. Meanwhile, Giang Nguyen told Tran to follow them in a separate vehicle.

As Viet Nguyen and Tam Nguyen were driving on the 73 Freeway, Tam, who was riding in the back seat, told Viet that he was feeling ill.

When Viet Nguyen pulled the car to the shoulder, Tam Nguyen shot Viet in the back of the head with a semi-automatic firearm, according to the district attorney's office.

Tran, in the other vehicle, pulled up behind the van to pick up Tam Nguyen.

Trying to avoid retaliation from other gang members, the four men said that Viet Nguyen was killed by a Costa Mesa drug dealer.

The case went cold for 11 years until Costa Mesa police started reinvestigating the crime with the help of the district attorney's office.

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