A 48-year-old Seattle man faces a first-degree manslaughter charge after King County prosecutors say he fatally shot an alleged accomplice in the stomach as the two beat and pistol-whipped a third man inside a recreational vehicle in October. After he was initially released from jail before charges were brought, the man pistol-whipped two witnesses involved in the homicide investigation, according to prosecutors.
Dung Chi Nguyen, who is homeless and goes by the street name “Cowboy,” was charged Nov. 13 with manslaughter in the death of Thu Vo, 46, as well as first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, three counts of second-degree assault and one count of intimidating a witness. Also arrested was Dat Phu Tran, 41, who was charged with three counts of second-degree assault for holding two other occupants of the RV from intervening while Nguyen and Vo pistol-whipped and punched the man who was targeted, charging papers say.
“The defendant has demonstrated through his actions that he is exceedingly dangerous,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen wrote of Nguyen in charging papers. “He has demonstrated a willingness to track down and brutally assault and intimidate witnesses against him. The defendant poses an extreme danger to the community and particularly the witnesses if released from custody.”
Nguyen, who was originally arrested Oct. 30 and released Nov. 5, was arrested again Nov. 8 and remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail. Tran, in custody since Oct. 28, is being held on $500,000 bail.
According to the charges:
On Oct. 25, a woman who was dating Vo — and who Nguyen was reportedly “obsessed” with — was struck in the face during an argument inside the RV by the vehicle’s owner. Another woman witnessed the assault and word got back to Vo, Nguyen and Tran, who were together at a Rainier Valley house in the 6900 block of 46th Avenue South, the charging papers say.
Around 3 a.m. on Oct. 26, the three men busted into the RV, which was parked on 36th Avenue South between South Genesee and South Dakota streets just north of Columbia City. Vo and Nguyen moved to the back of the RV, where the owner was sleeping, and began beating the man’s head, Vo using his fists and Nguyen using a pistol, according to the charges. Tran remained at the door of the RV and pointed his gun at a man and woman, preventing them from leaving or intervening in the beating.
The beating victim used his arms to try to block the blows and Nguyen’s gun went off. Vo was heard saying, “You shot me!” before he stumbled down the hall and collapsed near the door, according to the charges. Nguyen exited the RV and went to get his car while ordering Tran to carry Vo. Tran enlisted the help of the man he had held at gunpoint to get Vo out of the RV and into the car.
Nguyen then drove 2 miles south, to a parking lot at 3600 S. Graham Street, the charges say. During the drive, one of the men — it’s not clear who it was in the charges — called a friend, who was hanging out at the Rainier Valley house. That friend asked another man at the house to go to the parking lot and drive Vo to the hospital.
The man and his girlfriend arrived at the lot and found a red Acura with an injured Vo in the back seat and the keys inside. They drove to Harborview Medical Center and dropped Vo off near the entrance of the emergency room, according to the charges. Hospital staff called police to notify officers a victim with a gunshot wound had been brought in by witnesses. The couple who drove Vo were detained but told homicide detectives they didn’t know who shot Vo.
Vo died at the hospital.
According to the charges, the couple held at gunpoint inside the RV identified Nguyen and Tran as the armed suspects who broke into the RV. Police say Tran later admitted to going with Vo and Nguyen to the RV to teach the owner a lesson for “messing with suspect Nguyen and Vo’s female friend,” the charges say.
After a three-hour standoff with a SWAT team, Nguyen was arrested Oct. 30 outside his tent in the 1000 block of South Main Street. He was released from jail on Nov. 5, pending further investigation by Seattle police.
On Nov. 8, he is accused of going to the house on 46th Avenue South, where he struck one man six times in the head with a .45-caliber handgun and threatened to kill a second man before hitting him in the mouth and head with the gun. Both men were bloodied when they escaped the house and contacted police. The charges indicate at least one of the men had provided information about the homicide investigation to police.
Police obtained a search warrant for the house and shortly after, Nguyen was arrested by a SWAT team when he came outside, the charges say.
Nguyen is to be arraigned Nov. 25.