NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
A woman shot during a robbery in South Seattle on Dec. 15 has died. Officers responded to 39th Avenue South and South Warsaw Street at 8:30 p.m. to reports of shots fired. Eyewitnesses said 45-year-old My-Linh Nguyen was walking in the area when the suspect approached her and tried to steal her purse.
Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner said at a briefing on Dec. 16 that Nguyen had taken light rail and a bus home from her job at a downtown nail salon. He says there is evidence Nguyen fought with her assailant over her purse before she was shot multiple times. The suspect then ran away.
Medics rushed the woman to Harborview Medical Center, where she later died.
Police said Nguyen was gunned down just steps from her house. She was married with a 15-year-old son.
A disturbing trend
The Northwest Asian Weekly reported in September about the rise in purse snatchers targeting Asian women in their 60s and older. Mark Solomon, crime prevention coordinator based out of Seattle Police Department (SPD)’s south precinct, told us that women have had their gold chains snatched from their necks. Victims sometimes get pushed or shoved in the midst of robberies — resulting in injury. Last week’s robbery is the first of its kind this year that resulted in a fatality.
Merner said there have been 62 street robberies in the south precinct in the last four months. Twenty-six of the victims were women and five were men of Asian descent, the majority of them 50 or older, according to Merner. Police think they’re being targeted due to a belief that they’re likely to be carrying large amounts of cash.
Top brass at the SPD have convened as recently as Dec. 12 to address this crime wave, Merner said.
Police have also published personal-safety pamphlets in a variety of languages, including Vietnamese and Chinese, and have printed ads in community newspapers to warn people that they may be vulnerable to robbery.
Vietnamese-speaking officers have been assigned to work around the clock on this case. So far, police do not have a detailed description of the shooter. Ballistic testing on shell casings left at the scene is in progress and police are looking for video-surveillance footage.
Often, immigrant victims of theft or robbery either don’t report the crime at all or they wait too long before calling the SPD. Many take hours, not making a 911 call until they get home and have someone who can translate into English for them. “We want them to call us as soon as possible,” said Solomon. “As soon as they are in a place of safety. … If English is not their first language, we do have language lines.
All they need to do is say what language they need and we can set up a three-way call.”
Solomon states that beyond language gaps, the reasons why crime is underreported in Asian immigrant populations (and immigrant populations in general) include the desire to save face. Being the victim of a crime creates feelings of shame and embarrassment sometimes — fear of retaliation, distrust of police due to experiences with corrupt government in other countries they have lived in, and legal status. “Sometimes, people are undocumented,” said Solomon. “And it’s illegal for us to ask about it.” Solomon said that SPD officers cannot inquire about legal status — so any victim of a crime can and should report it.
“Sometimes, Asians don’t want to disturb the police,” said Linh Thach, SPD’s Asian community liaison. “They say, ‘If [the police] come, and they can’t find the suspect, I will be blamed for calling and wasting their time.’ And I say, ‘No, no, we get paid to serve you. We are happy to show up. Please call.’” “[Distrust of police is] one of the things where, as long as I’ve been doing this — and I’ve been doing this for 26 years — that’s one of the hardest things for us to overcome. Convincing people that it is okay for them to call the police,” said Solomon.
“You are not going to get in trouble. We’re not going to charge you. You can trust us.”
Anyone with information about the Nguyen homicide is asked to call the Seattle Police Department’s tip line, 206-233-5000, or Crime Stoppers, 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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