By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
PROSSER, Wash. — A convicted arsonist who was recently released from prison after causing the death of four Seattle firefighters is trying to change his legal name.
The Tri-City Herald reports that a petition for Martin Shaw Pang to change his name to Mark Sun Lee will be heard on Nov. 14 in Benton County District Court.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Denny Behrend, who escorted Pang back to Seattle after Pang fled to Brazil, told the Northwest Asian Weekly that he thinks there’s a “nefarious reason” for Pang wanting a name change.
Douglas Chin of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) – Greater Seattle agrees. He thinks Pang wants to hide his real identity and past.
“We need to be informed of his new name and treat him like the evil person he is. Although we, as a society, like to give persons a second chance, from what I read, he has not changed. He does not deserve to be given a fair opportunity.”
Pang was convicted of four counts of manslaughter after setting a fire in his parents’ Chinatown-International District warehouse in January 1995. Lt. Walter Kilgore, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker, and firefighters Randall Terlicker and James Brown died when the floor inside the frozen-food warehouse collapsed.
Pang cites “cultural, religious, and protective reasons” for the name change and wants the judge to seal the record.
Connie So, a principal lecturer of American Ethnic Studies of the University or Washington, said Pang has the right to change his name.
“I hope he is sincere about his regret for his action. Being able to change his name, he could redeem himself by his action,” So said.
Seattle police homicide detective Steve O’Leary was one of the primary investigators of the Pang warehouse fire.
“I don’t blame him (Pang),” said O’Leary. “It’s a notorious name.”
A King County judge ordered Pang to serve a total of 35 years in prison based on the state’s sentencing guidelines at the time. But he was released after 23 years because time off for good behavior was calculated at a higher rate. Also because of the law at the time, Pang, now 62, does not have to be supervised by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) since his release from prison.
Community leader Frank Irigon said, “I am outraged over the amount of time he spent in prison and then being released without having any DOC supervision… it cannot atone for what he did.”
Irigon said Pang’s petition to change his name doesn’t change the fact that he caused the deaths of four Seattle firefighters to collect an insurance payout.
Attorney James Doane said, “Having avoided the death penalty as a condition of extradition from Brazil, after four firefighters died in the fire, Martin admitted he set at his parents Seattle warehouse, and free now because he was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder under the laws at the time, I hope that he will find a way to avoid further harm to the memory of those firefighters or to Mary and Harry Pang, who adopted him and nurtured him. He may legally change his name, of course, but no one should ever forget the names of four brave firefighters he took from us.”
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.