Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Chinatown Murders

by Tom Emch

Is San Francisco's Chinatown the spawning ground for criminal gang activities springing up in large cities elsewhere in the United States? Is it organized, possibly from Hong Kong?

Police are not specific. But there are these facts:

- Various San Francisco homicide inspectors have been traveling to New York City where police are setting up a special unit to deal with Chinatown crime there.

- Royal Hong Kong police have been in close contact with the San Francisco police intelligence unit and homicide detectives. Hong Kong police have helped identify certain suspects here by supplying mug shots, fingerprints and names translated from the "Three-way Chinese Commercial Code."

- Hong Kong police have been corresponding with San Francisco police offering their knowledge of the workings of the active Triad Societies, and their elaborate code numbers.

- It is known that Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C. and New York police have been cooperating in the search for Paul Seet Chin, wanted for the murder of Richard Leung in October of 1971.

- Since 1969, there have been seventeen murders associated with Chinatown youth gangs. Here is the chronology of violence:

Armado Legardo, 29, stabbed April 19, 1969.
Glen Fong, 19, shot March 1, 1970.
Teddy Tam, 21, stabbed June 13, 1970.
Larry Miyata, 16, shot September 12, 1970.
Richard Leung (also known as Raymond Leong), 18, shot October 2, 1970.
George Yun, 21, strangled November 5, 1971.
Kenneth Chan, 15, shot November 7, 1971.
Allan ("The Monster") Hom, 22, strangled November 19, 1971.
James Lee, 20, strangled November 20, 1971.
Harry Quan (or Kwan), 14, shot March 9, 1972.
Harry (The Professor") Ng, 60, shot March 13, 1972.
Poole Leong, 22, shot June 14, 1972.
Barry Fong-Torres, 29, shot June 26, 1972.
William Hackney, 41, shot March 23, 1973.
Anton Wong, 24, shot May 24, 1973.
Yip Yee Tak, 32, shot June 3, 1973.
Wayne Fung, 19, shot August 12, 1973.

Besides the murders, there have been numerous armed robberies and plenty of acid throwing and window smashing, the tactics reserved for shopkeepers and restaurant owners who dislike paying for protection. However, police believe the actual criminal element in Chinatown is small.

They say no more than 150 persons, mostly teenagers, are responsible for all the crime, and these are the gang members.

What is behind the crime wave, Chinatown residents ask.

Ghetto crime has not changed much over the years and the patterns are similar wherever you crowd people into tenements and lock them with poverty.

San Francisco's Chinatown is probably the worst ghetto in the country. More than 60,000 people are packed into forty-two square blocks. One-third of the families earn less than the federal poverty level.

Chinatown's unemployment rate is nearly thirteen percent, while it is six percent for San Francisco as a whole and under five percent for the country.

Crowded? The density rate in Chinatown is 885 persons per acre, ten times The City's average.

Few Chinatown tourists are aware that Chinese children attend classes in hallways and in storage areas and hold recess on rooftops. Many of the working people live in dormitory-like buildings and keep their possessions in suitcases because there is no closet space.

They work in sewing-factory sweatshops along Pacific Avenue, Powell, Jackson and Kearny Streets where, it is said, some 3,000 seamstresses produce garments on a piece-work basis for American firms.

Add to this the fact that many residents can't speak English. And they refuse to complain about conditions because they or some of their relatives are here illegally - a perfect framework for exploitation.

The present turmoil in Chinatown is, some observers believe, an open revolt against intolerable social conditions. And the youth gangs are the knife point of the revolt.

Police are concerned with keeping the lid on Chinatown. They don't see an armed youth who robs a "Mom and Pop" grocery store as a social crusader.

Homicide inspectors don't regard a teenage strangler as a social problem and the product of his environment. He is a violent and dangerous killer and should be brought to justice before he kills again.

An international underworld hierarchy, directed from Hong Kong, may be responsible for some of the seventeen execution-type gang warfare murders in Chinatown.

Directly involved are two Chinatown youth gangs linked with the protection racket: the Wah Ching (Chinese Youth) and the Chung Ching Yee (Loyalty and Righteousness), also known as the Joe Fong Gang, after its former leader Joe Fong, now serving ten to life for attempted murder. Fong was born in Macao, a Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong.

The leadership of the Wah Ching, specifically, is known to have strong Hong Kong ties, now under investigation by the Royal Hong Kong Police, as well as ties to the underworld gangs in Los Angeles and to an organization in New York's Chinatown known as the White Eagles.

Former leader of the Wah Chings, Anton Wong, murdered in broad daylight May 23 at Powell and Jackson Streets, was born in Hong Kong and traveled extensively to both Hong Kong and New York, where, police believe, he was consulted on the formation of the White Eagles.

Harry Ng, murdered in his Kung Fu studio March 13, 1972, is believed to have been a courier between the Wah Chings and a mysterious person in Hong Kong known only by a code name. Ng gunned down on a Monday, had airline reservations for Hong Kong the following Saturday.

The 60 year old Ng ("The Professor"), police say, was mentor of the Wah Ching thugs, teaching them extortion tactics.

The criminal activities of the Chinatown gangs - the extortion racket, assault and armed robbery for the most part - are well known to police, particularly to the homicide and intelligence details.

What is less well known is the extent of the profits from crime - estimated at a minimum of $250,000 a year but possibly five times that amount - and how much is funneled back to Hong Kong.

Control of the rackets and the profits, police believe, is the motive for the chain of seventeen gangland murders that began in April of 1969.

Another unknown factor is the extent to which any or possibly all of Chinatown's five tongs are involved with the gangs.

A tong today is a respectable benevolent or fraternal association, some Chinese claim. They admit, however, that tong gambling games are more sophisticated than, say, church bingo. And all the tongs operate gambling games.

The Hop Sing Tong, one of the largest nationally, has ten chapters in the United States with headquarters in San Francisco and has assets of more than $7 million.

The Hop Sing, police say formally initiated into the tong some young Wah Ching hoodlums in the late 1960s. They were brought in as look-see boys for tong gambling games, but were later expelled when they got out of control and demanded more than $100 a night as guards and lookouts. It seems they wanted part of the action.

Chinatown's largest tong, the Bing Kong, has a reputation for civic and business leadership as well as a history of using muscle to enforce its rules.

The Hip Sing, third most important in San Francisco, is big in Los Angeles and perhaps the strongest tong in New York's Chinatown.

The Ying Ong (or Ying On) is the smallest numerically in San Francisco. But it, too, has chapters in major cities. Politically, it is said to be tied to the Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintgang) government on Taiwan. In New York, the Ying Ong and the Kuomintang have offices in the same building.

The fifth tong in Chinatown is the Suey Sing. One source says that Suey Sing members harbored some Red Guard youths from Mainland China who came to San Francisco during the 1969 Cultural Revolution and were responsible for the Chinese New Year's Jackson Street confrontation with police.

The Suey Sing, one of the more impenetrable of the Tongs, includes in its membership one youth gang leader known as Tom Tom, sources say. Tom Tom, one of the original members of the Wah Chings, broke away from the organization in late 1969 and formed his own gang. The new gang, identified by police as the "young Suey Sings" or the "Tom Tom Gang," is made up of foreign born teenagers known as "F.O.B.s," or "fresh off the boats."

The Tom Tom Gang was hired by the Suey Sing as look-see guards at gambling games, just as the Wah Chings were hired by the Hop Sing. Rivalries between the gangs developed, leading to the first violence.

On March 19, 1969, a 29 year old Filipino, Armado Legardo, was stabbed to death at Washington and Grant Streets. His murder is unsolved, but police believe he was executed by one of the gangs.

Then, on March 1, 1970, Wah Ching president Glen Fong was executed - riddled with ten shots from a .30 caliber carbine as he entered his home at 927 Jackson Street.

The assailant is still unknown, but police say that shortly after Fong's death, Tom Tom was mobbed and beaten nearly to death in a Chinatown alley.

After a hospital recovery, Tom Tom moved his gang to Oakland, where he established headquarters and staked out his sphere of influence. Police say he may be "waiting in the wings" for the day he can return to Chinatown and take over the rackets.

Fong's killing kicked off the gang war in earnest. There were two more killings in 1970; five murders in 1971, four of them in November; four more murders in 1972, and there have been four so far in 1973.

Police have two convictions for the seventeen murders; there are "wanted" bulletins out on two separate suspects for two more of the murders; a suspect is in custody for one recent killing; nine are officially listed by police as "unsolved," and the most recent is being investigated.

Homicide investigators believe they know who committed all but five of the murders. But evidence is a hard thing to come by in Chinatown, where a wall of silence has been traditionally maintained by Orientals when talking to police officers, particularly Caucasians.

And in the entire San Francisco Police Department there are only a few men who are fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, the prevalent language of Chinatown. The tongs are experienced at using the language barrier to their advantage.

Tongs got their start more than one hundred years ago when Chinese "coolie" labor was imported into California to work on the railheads and in the gold fields. Originally, they were associations to protect members from the oppressions and injustices of the racist white bosses.

Only much later did they allegedly get into the rackets, gambling, prostitution and narcotics. But from the beginning they used muscle and strong-arm tactics to settle grievances.

The tongs are descendants of the ancient and secret Triad Societies of China which were organized on a military basis with well-defined ranks and duties. Even today, Triads control Hong Kong crime.

For mutual recognition and to avoid detection, Triad officers were (and are) known by numbers. The number "481" is the chief officer, and "438" is the deputy chief. "415" is the officer in charge of administration and finance. "426" is the liaison or messenger. This individual, known as the Straw Sandal, is also responsible for delivering demand notes and collection of protection fees. When force is necessary, "432" arranges for it, supplies the "enforcer."

Ordinary rank and file members of a Triad are designated by the number "49" - standing for four times nine or thirty-six, which is the number of oaths a recruit has to take during the initiation ceremony. In Hong Kong, the ceremony is known as "Hanging the Blue Lantern."

Similar initiation ceremonies into associations still take place in Chinatown, reportedly in the attics or on the rooftops of some buildings where no Caucasian has ever been allowed. Initiations into both tongs and, on another level into gangs are secret; so are sessions at which "justice" is dispensed. Punishment for infractions of rules is known as "roof discipline."

In the case of a youth gang, membership offers prestige and status to aspiring recruits, as well as protection from bullies and strong-arm men. For a teenager, a recent immigrant from Hong Kong for instance, non-affiliation can be unhealthy. Resisting initiation can even be fatal, according to police.

Police say the real link between San Francisco and Hong Kong crime is not between the tongs and the Triads, but between the Triads and the Chinese youth gangs in major U.S. cities which use fragments of Triad rituals, although unaware of their origin.

The average teenage Chinese initiated into a criminal gang here or in Hong Kong usually knows little or nothing about the orthodox Triad Society structure, but he is aware that he is joining a secret group and must take orders from its leader to whom he must swear allegiance.

Royal Hong Kong Police say the young Triad gangs - they have identified more than fifty of them - engage in extortion from shopkeepers, restaurants, dance halls, mahjong schools, gambling games in addition to purse snatching, armed robbery and assault. In 1971, Hong Kong police arrested 874 Triad members, of which 72 percent were under 21 years of age.

Hong Kong police have noted a sharp increase in juvenile crime since 1968, and in San Francisco there has been a corresponding rise in robberies, extortion and violence in Chinatown.

This is not viewed as coincidence by San Francisco police homicide inspectors who see similar patterns of crime here and in Hong Kong. This has led to increased cooperation between San Francisco and Hong Kong police, including an exchange of files, rap sheets and fingerprints on persons believed to be operating on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco police won't divulge information they feel will be important in future prosecutions, but they are full of speculation and they are willing to theorize on certain events and motives. So are some attorneys acquainted with the Chinatown gang warfare through either prosecution or defense efforts.

Here is the way the police reconstruct the chain of violence and retaliation for violence that has plagued Chinatown for four years and has been a shock for the normally law-abiding Chinese citizen of San Francisco.

Lt. Charles Ellis, head of the Homicide Detail and a former uniformed patrolman in Chinatown, says the beat was once considered "quiet". There either wasn't much crime or the residents didn't report crimes to the police.

Ellis says: "There's been a change in Chinatown. The immigration laws (The McCarran Act) were liberalized in 1964 to allow more Chinese into the country, and we started seeing the Hong Kong kids in about 1968.

He refers to the kids from Hong Kong's Wanchai District, a high crime area similar to the Tenderloin in San Francisco.

These "street urchins" got into the United States by means of a "paper father" - a person in San Francisco who would, for a fee, claim to be the father of a youth in Hong Kong, and sign papers to that effect.

The papers signed in San Francisco were sent back to Hong Kong where they were processed by Chinese clerks working in the U.S. Consulate in the Crown Colony.

On the surface it was a legal relative of a U.S. citizen of Chinese descent entering the United States under the sponsorship of his father.

But in fact, the immigrants were unknown to their "fathers" and never saw them once they arrived "fresh off the boat" in San Francisco.

Immigration officials are reluctant to talk about it, but some Chinatown sources say hundreds of young Hong Kong Chinese entered the U.S. in this fashion. Additional thousands entered with perfectly legal papers under the sponsorship of legal parents.

Police now believe that some of the "illegal entrants," the Wanchai street urchins, were recruited and brought to San Francisco by members of Chinatown gangs in cooperation with Triad Society members in Hong Kong to engage in crime and return part of the profits to Hong Kong.

Lt. Ellis says these teenage criminals, some of whom have police records in Hong Kong, began appearing on police blotters here in 1968.

But even before that, possibly in 1965, a Chinatown source says, some of the Hong Kong kids were in San Francisco and working for the Hop Sing Tong as guards at gambling operations.

As more of them arrived fresh off the boat, they formed the Wah Ching, which is a designation indicating "foreign-born."

In the period between early 1968 and the murder of Wah Ching leader Glen Fong in March of 1970, it was "The Professor," Harry Ng, police believe, who organized the Hong Kong kids into extortion gangs, acting as a teacher, much like the character Fagin in the London of Charles Dickens.

Glen Fong led one group, Tom Tom led another group and by the time the gang warfare erupted in earnest, there was another extortion group, called the Yau Lai (Friendship for Profit), led by Steven Chan and Joe Fong, who has been described by police as an 18 year old with all the intelligence and cunning of a 40 year old Chinese warlord.

The Yau Lai, by late 1971, had become the dominant Chinatown extortion gang, infringing on the territory and "customers" of the other gangs and, indeed, incurring the wrath of certain of the tongs.

Police speculate that the end of the Yau Lai occurred in October and November of 1971 with the murders of four of its members, including Steven Chan's chief lieutenant, Richard Leung (also known as Raymong Leong) on October 2. Leung was killed by a .38 caliber revolver in the 600 block of Jackson Street in broad daylight in front of hundreds of horrified spectators.

Three Chinese youths had an argument with Leung in which two of them pulled guns and shot Leung, who ran to Grant avenue and collapsed. There, one of his pursuers fired two more shots at point blank range into the back of Leung's head.

Within the next six weeks, three more known Yau Lai members were executed:

George Yun was found November 5, strangled and dumped in the Presidio shrubbery near West Pacific road. He had been hogtied and beaten.

Allan Hom's body, dumped in the Bay, surfaced near Hayward November 19. He had been strangled and hogtied with a length from the same piece of rope used on Yun.

The next day, November 20, the body of James Lee, appeared in the Bay at Redwood City. He, too, had been strangled and hogtied.

Only the first of the four murders produced a suspect. Police believe a Paul Seet Chin of New York, a member of the White Eagles, was imported as the "hit" man in the Richard Leung slaying. The suspect is still at large and the subject of a "wanted" bulletin.

There are several police theories on the bodies that were found hogtied and dumped:
(1) They were executed by members of the Tom Tom gang in Oakland; (2) Tom Tom's gang was hired by one of the tongs to perform the executions; (3) It was strictly an execution by tong members fed up with the rising cost of protection.

At any rate, Joe Fong, by December of 1971, found life in Chinatown unhealthy and went into hiding in the Ingleside District. But before he left he was cornered in Ross Alley, beaten and left for dead by unknown assailants - unknown to the police, that is.

Joe knew who had beaten him and, underworld sources say, he went to the leader of the Yau Lai, Steven Chan, to get permission to kill a character known as Henry ("Big Head") Louie. Permission was refused and Joe Fong left Chinatown to form his own gang.

It must be understood that there were shifting alliances and many Yau Lai members were also members of the Wah Ching. It was the latter organization, led by the mysterious Anton Wong, which became the arch enemy of the new Joe Fong gang, named the Chung Ching Yee. Their clubhouse was at 161 Farallones Street.

The polarization of these two gangs set off the current chain of Chinatown murders which began March 9, 1972 when Harry Quan (or Kwan) was shot from a car with a .32 caliber automatic as he stood with a group of youths in front of 815 Stockton Street, location of the Police Athletic League.

Quan, only 14, was a Wah Ching member. After his murder, police immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of Joe Fong and one of his lieutenants, David Wong. There were six witnesses for the prosecution and one for the defense when the case came up in Juvenile Court. On the strength of the one defense witness, a girl who established Joe Fong's alibi, he was acquitted, as was David Wong. The car used in the Quan murder was registered to Richard Leung, the friend of Joe Fong who had been murdered five months earlier.

By June 1972, with the help of a list of members obtained in a raid on the Joe Fong headquarters in the Ingleside District, police were aware of the names of the leaders of both the Chung Ching Yee and the Wah Ching - names that had popped up in homicide investigations and as the last half dozen victims of the gang warfare.

Also by this time, the tongs had become alarmed at the wave of violence. One of them broke the traditional rule of silence and printed an announcement in the Chinese Times, the leading Chinese-language newspaper of Chinatown:

"Bulletin of the Bing Kong Tong."

"Due to the current lawlessness in the Chinese Community, we issue this bulletin to all of our brothers and sisters to obey the law, to observe the customs and desist from all unruly behavior harmful to the commercial and social life of our community."

"If you persist in this anti-social conduct, our Tong will never interfere on your behalf. If you dare to damage any of the business enterprises owned by members of our Tong, we will go after you all the way."

The Bing Kong is influential in Chinatown and their warning was not to be taken lightly. It was interpreted by some Chinatown observers as putting the Wah Ching and Chung Ching Yee on notice that protection fees were getting too high and that the tong was prepared to do something unusual in Chinatown - go to the police, name names, sign complaints and press for prosecution.

And indeed, the Chinese wall of silence began to crumble shortly after the next act of violence. On the night of June 13, 1972, Poole Leong, a Wah Ching member, was shot to death on the balcony of his apartment in the Ping Yuen housing project in the 800 block of Pacific Avenue, just off Grant Avenue.

While talking on the telephone, Leong was approached by two Chinese youths. One produced a .25 caliber automatic and fired. Leong slumped to thefirst floor balcony deck, bleeding profusely. Police were called and the Dispatcher at the Hall of Justice sent an ambulance to the housing project. The gang warfare victim - the twelfth in three years - was dead on arrival at San Francisco General Hospital.

Twelve murders. All unsolved. But this one was different. There were witnesses who were willing to talk to the police. The Chinese wall of non-cooperation was broken.

Homicide inspectors Frank McCoy and Edward Erdelatz Jr. knew that their witnesses might bow to pressures in Chinatown and refuse to talk by the time the case came to trial; so they immediately transfered the sketchy description of the assailants to a tape recorder.

At Central Police Station, on the morning of June 14, 9172, the witnesses identified a picture of Weyman Tso from the files. He was one of the two intruders, they said. Later the same day, after studying more photo files, they came across a picture of Richard Lee, five feet seven, 120 pounds and 21 years old. This was the man who produced the gun and fired the fatal shots, the witnesses told police.

The next day, the District Attorney's office decided there was enough evidence to justify warrants on a charge of murder. Superior judge Eugene F. Lynch agreed and promptly issued warrants of Weyman Tso and Richard Lee.

In another break with tradition, the Chinese Times appeared on the streets with a story on the murder in the Ping Yuen housing complex. The story even speculated on Poole Leong's gangland connections. Community reaction was definitely on the side of the police.

Anonymous tips began coming in to Inspectors McCoy and Erdelatz. These tips linked Richard Lee with the Joe Fong gang, naming him as Fong's number one deputy.

Fourteen days went by after issuance of the all points bulletin for the arrest of the suspects, but without result. Lee and Tso were still at large when another murder occurred.
This time it was not in Chinatown and the victim was not a known gang member but a respected youth worker, Barry Fong-Torres, 29, director of the Youth Services Coordinating Center on Columbus Avenue.

Fong-Torres had been in his Sunset District home at 1434 16th Avenue when someone rang his bell, police said.

It was about 11:30 p.m. Fong-Torres opened the door and five shots were fired, striking the youth worker in the head, eye, mouth and chest.

A scrawled note was found under the victim's body in an envelope. The misspelled message read: "Pig Informer Die Yong."

(Police later discovered that Fong-Torres had complained to a friend shortly before being killed that he was "getting too close to the Chinatown gangs whose members thought he knew too much.")

Four hours after the Fong-Torres murder, police stopped a speeding car on 16th Avenue and arrested two Chinese youths.

One of the youths was Richard Lee, wanted for the murder of Poole Leong. The other was gang leader Joe Fong. Both were taken to the homicide bureau and questioned. Lee was held over for indictment in the Leong murder, and Joe Fong was released for lack of evidence.

There have been no warrants issued in the Barry Fong-Torres killing, but Richard Lee was brought to trial and found guilty of the murder of Poole Leong. He was sentenced November 22, 1972, in front of Superior Court Judge Walter Calcagno. The term: life in prison. It was the first conviction in the chain of Chinatown gangland killings.

And it marked the first time in the history of the San Francisco Police Department that a conviction had been brought about through the cooperation of Chinatown residents.

The apparently motiveless murder of youth worker Barry Fong-Torres brought a wave of reaction from the entire city and demands were made that police crack down on Chinatown violence.

By September of 1972, the crackdown was a fact.

On the night of September 12, police raided the Chung Ching Yee headquarters at 161 Farallones Street and took ten Chinese youths into custody, including Joe Fong.

Less than a month later, Joe Fong - out on bail on the kidnap charge - was picked up again. This time for attempted murder.

He was accused, along with David Wong and Paul Lew, of firing at a car containing five Chinese youths parked at the corder of Hyde and Sacramento Streets. The shots wounded Jerry Leng and Gordon Wong, both Wah Ching members. The wounds were minor and both were treated in Mission Emergency Hospital and released.

The crackdown continued and on the night of October 18, police arrested twenty-two Chinese youths at a disturbance in the 600 block of Jackson street. All were questioned and released. No charges were filed. But police said all twenty-two were members of either the Wah Ching or the Joe Fong Gang.

Police interrogations of gang members usually are fruitless. But the aftermath of an event in September of 1972 was different.

At the annual outing of a Chinese flower growers' association held in Mountain View there was a gambling game in progress. Police say members of the Wah Ching knew in advance of the game, and showed up in two cars. Seven youths - all armed - scooped up the gambling pot, shook down several of the flower growers and fled with an estimated $10,000.

San Francisco police were tipped off that the raid had taken place and questioned several Wah Ching suspects separately. Several of them described the raid in detail, police say.

The statements were turned over to detectives of the Mountain View police, but the flower growers refused to sign complaints and the case never produced an indictment.

The year 1973 began with a serious blow to the Chinese gangs. Joe Fong, leader of the Chung Ching Yee, was convicted January 12 of the ambush shooting of Jerry Leng. Convicted iwth Fong were David Wong and Paul Lew. A fourth suspect, Clifton ("Bongy") Wong, later surrendered to police.

In February, Joe Fong, 18, considered by police to be the most dangerous man in Chinatown, was sentenced to ten to life for an attempted murder that only slightly wounded his intended victim. However, police believe that Joe Fong's conviction and sentencing removed from society the person who either ordered or participated in four other murder cases: Harry Quan, Harry Ng, Poole Leong and Barry Fong-Torres.

The imprisonment of Joe Fong left his gang in confusion and without an apparent leader, but it didn't stop the killings.

There was a senseless murder March 23,1973, which had nothing to do with the gang warfare, but it sheds light on the mentality of some Chinese youth gang members and their low regard for human life.

After a racial confrontation March 23 in a parking lot near Roosevelt Junior High School between four Chinese and a group of Blacks, the Chinese apparently decided to avenge some sort of insult.

In a case of mistaken identity the four Chinese later hassled William Hackney, 41, in the parking lot of the Doggie Diner at the intersection of Arguello and Geary Boulevards.

Hackney was mobbed and given several Karate chops, police said. Then witnesses said, shots rang out and Hackney crumpled to the pavement. He was dead on arrival at Park Emergency Hospital. Police later arrested and released three Chinese juveniles, including Robert Louie, 19, who was held as a possible parole violator and later released.

Louie is the suspected leader of a robbery gang known as the "ski mask" bandits, linked with eight armed robberies between mid-March and mid-May of 1973. Louie, later convicted in connection with the robberies, is believed to have been deep in the extortion racket in Chinatown, but not directly affiliated with either the Wah Ching or Joe Fong's Chung Ching Yee. The Hackney murder is still unsolved, but there is a wanted bulletin out for Ernest Wong, 16.

After the January conviction of Joe Fong, police intelligence officers knew it was jut a matter of time until his imprisonment would be avenged.

One officer said:
"As the killings went on, some of the gangs that had been ill-defined became clearer to us. They were staking out the rackets and their territories and we could almost tell who was going to get it next. "

The leader of the Wah Ching got it next - Anton Wong. He was killed for the apparent motive that he had been a prosecution witness at the trial of Joe Fong.

In am amazingly bold high noon attack at Powell and Jackson Streets Wong, who had ben told by his parole officer to stay out of Chinatown, was gunned down execution-style.

The victim was the number one police suspect in the slaying of a Japanese seaman, Larry Miyata, in September of 1970. Wong was the liaison to the White Eagles in New York, the pallbearer for Harry Ng, and a frequent visitor to Hong Kong. Police believe he may have been the "bag man" who carried the money back and forth.

Police say Anton Wong was born in Hong Kong in 1948, and came to San Francisco in 1963. His rap sheet has twelve entries beginning in July of 1967 - mostly burglary and assault with a deadly weapon. One charge was pending at the time of his murder, which left the Wah Ching leaderless.

According to police, a youth approached Anton Wong at 12:15 p.m. at the corner of Powell and Jackson Streets, where the cable cars make their abrupt turn.

The killer approached to within a few feet and began firing. The first bullet apparently wounded Wong and he fell to the pavement. His assailant then stood over his victim and pumped five or six bullets from a .25 caliber automatic into Wong's head.

Witnesses said the young killer then ran south on Powell and escaped into the crowd.

Police immediately named Joe Fong's younger brother Chung Wai Fong, 15, as aprime suspect. Eight days later, Chung Wai Fong surrendered topolice to face a murder charge. He was later convicted in Juvenile Court. A brother, Kit Fong, a youth worker and the older brother of the imprisoned Joe Fong,aided police in the surrender of Chung Wai Fong.

Police immediately made arrangements for the safety of Kit Fong, who they believed to be marked for assassination. He has left his job at the Youth for Service Organization at 14th and Harrison Streets and has dropped out of sight.

Then, on June 3, came the sixteenth Chinatown gangland murder since April 1969.

Yip Yee Tak, 32, also known as Dr. Ysung Yang, a counsellor to Chinatown youth, was gunned down at the busy intersection of Pacific and Grant Avenues. Three shots from a .38 caliber revolver hit him in the head and shoulder.

Witnesses said the killer ran down Pacific to Columbus Avenue, turned right and disappeared, walking casually. On the way he tossed the revolver into Beckett Alley, where it was recovered by police. A suspect, Chol Soo Lee, is in custody.

Officers so far have been unable to fit this slaying into the pattern of violence and retaliation. They will say only that Yip Yee Tak, like Barry Fong-Torres, knew too much.

Fong-Torres knew too much; Tak knew too much and that fatal knowledge is the prime motive for the seventeenth murder.

On the night of August 12, at a service station at 19th Avenue and Irving Street where he was employed, Wayne Fung was killed by seven bullets from a .38 caliber automatic.

The gunman, an Oriental youth, fired the shots and ran to a waiting car parked on 18th Avenue, witnesses said. Fung, 19, was a member of the Wah Ching.

Homicide inspectors are investigating this gangland slaying and are waiting for the next.

They wait helplessly. Because they are almost certain they know who the next victim will be.

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1973

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Life on the Bomb Squad

by Tom Emch

There are nine San Francisco policemen, five sergeants and four patrolmen, who are uninsurable - because there are no available statistics on their life expectancy.

The nine are volunteers, highly trained in the extremely gentle art of disarming explosive devices. Like the kind that blew up Park Station and the Iranian Consulate.

Each knows the techniques developed by British bomb disposal officers during the London Blitz. And each knows that these World War II bomb disposal pioneers had a life expectancy of six months.

One day you may read about one of the men on the San Francisco bomb squad. Remember their names: Sergeant Burton J. Bishop, the leader, Sergeant Don Goad, Sergeant Tom O'Donnell, Sergeant William Pacheco, Sergeant Dave Winn, Patrolman Dale Boyd, Patrolman Robert Hulsey, Patrolman Fred Neville, Patrolman Ray Portue. All have other regular duties except Bishop who is bomb squad full-time.

Tonight, while you're safe in bed, or tomorrow while you're in your place of work, one of these men might lose an arm, an eye, or his life.

The phone rings , Judy Boyd answers it, and the ring is like a shriek in her ears. Her husband, Dale, is already out of bed and on his feet.

She says "It's for you, Dale, Operations".

Police operations gives Boyd the location of the "package," and a few details. He mumbles acknowledgement, hangs up.

Usually, a patrolman on the park and beach detail, this time he has a different sort of assignment: a suspected bomb. Boyd dresses quickly, grabs his "tool kit" and kisses his wife goodbye.

"I'll call you," he says.

Later, he does call, tells his wife the "package" was a false alarm, a shoe box on the door step at one of the consulates. It contained rocks.

Boyd is used to the false alarms, the lunch bucket at Candlestick Park that turns out to be just a mislaid lunch bucket, the paper bag at the Federal Building that contains garbage, the attache case at the Bank of America that contains harmless business papers.

But Judy Boyd has never gotten used to the phone ringing in the middle of the night "When he told me he had volunteered for the bomb squad, we discussed it."

"He told me about the training and all the precautions, and finally I told him it was his decision."

"But the phone is still bad, I find myself waiting for it to ring. And then it does. I wait up for him until he gets back. Couldn't sleep anyway."

Judy recalls one night in October 1971 when the phone rang for her husband and it wasn't a dud. The Iranian Consulate had just ben bombed rocking the Pacific Heights mansion off its foundation and damaging fifty homes in the area. Miraculously, the wife of the Consul General and her three children escaped injury.

Another night, shortly after that blast, she recalls the phone ringing again: "I guess we were jittery and when it rang we both reached for it and collided, bumped our heads. That broke the jitters and we started to laugh."

Patrolman Boyd doesn't laugh easily when he talks about his work.

"We were trained at the Presidio by the 87th EOD (Explosive Ordnance Detachment). Seven weeks, and we worked mostly on homemade stuff and pip bombs, dynamite, C-4 plastic, blasting caps, grenades..."

"We were taught disarming procedures, techniques I can't tell you about, except to say that the British developed most of them."

He says that before you get around to disarming a device, there are a few things that have to be done. You "isolate" the device: get the civilians out of the area, and perform some routine crime laboratory work, like searching for evidence, dusting for fingerprints, taking pictures."

"You do this even if the device looks like a brown paper lunch bag says Boyd. "Everything, every package is treated as if it is real, a live explosive. That's the only way to stay alive."

It's the way experts operate, although Boyd and his fellow bomb squad officers are fond of saying "There are no experts in this business."

They say this and recall, perhaps, the Army captain who trained them, Captain Gary Guest, deceased.

Captain Guest was alone in the 87th EOD workshop April 17, 1971 when an explosion occurred. He apparently had been working on a disarming technique when the explosive material detonated. Guest was dead on arrival at Letterman General Hospital.

"There are no live experts," says Sergeant Burton (Jim Bishop), head of the San Francisco bomb squad, "Only dead ones."

Bishop, in his office on the first floor of the Hall of Justice, lights up a cigarette and waves at a steel cabinet full of defused dynamite sticks, blasting caps, grenades, Viet Cong mortor shells and pipe bombs.

"That's just a few of them."

Bishop, owner of nine meritorious citations for heroism, explains the bomb squad has been in operation since July 1970 (a few months after the bombing of Park Station at which Sergeant Brian McDonnell was killed and several other officers were seriously injured.

His records show more than 1,350 bomb threats since formation of the squad and 24.5 "actuals". 'Actuals' are explosive devices either duds or disarmed by his squad.

"Business has picked up" he says. Now we're getting eight to one-hundred-twenty threats a month.

A chart of bomb squad activity on the wall of his office graphically describes the frequency of the threats. Thursday and Friday are prime days. Two o'clock in the afternoon is a prime time.

Bishop says the explosive device at Park Station was a pipe bomb containing black powder, hooked up to an alarm clock and a six volt battery. The bomb, containing small caliber bullets, was placed in a cardboard box filled with staples. It exploded at 10:45 pm February 16, 1970.

There is still a $38,000 uncollected reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects involved in the crime.

The blast at Park Station shook the Police Department into action which resulted in the formation of the bomb squad and the bomb-proofing of district stations and new security procedures at the Hall of Justice.

The blast also made Jim Bishop the top bomb disposal officer in The City, a job that no one envies.

Bishop has had one brush with death and expects more. Several months after he was trained at the Presidio, on January 19, 1971, he responded to a call at the Old Federal Building, 50 Fulton Street. A package had been found containing two and a half pounds of live dynamite, a battery and a plain wrist watch.

"The device was set to explode at fifty-five minutes after the hour," Bishop recalls.

"I know I had a minimum of fifty-five minutes to disarm it, and possibly an hour and fifty-five minutes."

"I took it to the basement in a bucket and dismantled it. The battery connections were good, the watch was working. I found it had fifteen minutes to go."

There's another way to express the situation: Sergeant Bishop had fifteen minutes to live.

The sergeant is aware of the odds, and says of his job: "Someone has to do it."

He says this is in his apartment where he is waiting for the return of his wife of five months, a pretty blonde named Sheila.

The apartment has a kind of careless look, comfortable, but contemporary. Like the occupants may not be there forever. And Bishop himself strides through it restlessly, as if he is anxious for something to happen.

The phone rings, and it is his wife who says she'll be home shortly.
Sheila Bishop arrives and says quietly that she doesn't like to talk about her husband's job.

"During the day, he never calls me, so I don't know if he's out on a job or not. It does make me nervous at night when he goes out on a call. I wonder if he's going to come home. Stay awake. Wait for a phone call."

"No, I don't object," says Sheila "I don't think I should interfere with his job."

She seems to have a reservoir of quiet strength that enables her to accept a precarious married life... ("I wonder if he's going to come home")... to a demolitions man, a man she sometimes flares up to defend at cocktail parties.

Judy Boyd has the same problem. "When we're out socially," she says, "people will find out Dale works on the bomb squad, and they'll say 'You mean he volunteered'?

"Or they ask 'What possesses a man to want to disarm bombs.'"

She says that her two children, Laura, eleven and Kenny, Ten, both have been hassled in school. Poked fun at because their father is a cop.

"In some circles", she says, "people become uncomfortable when they learn Dale is a policeman, so we end up socializing mostly with other police families."

Boyd shrugs his shoulders and says, 'It's just easier talking to someone who knows something about your work."

When you work on a bomb squad, you have to keep up with your subject. In Sergeant Bishop's office there are bombing reports from other jurisdictions, reports from the National Bomb Data Center in Washington, D.C. There are FBI reports, training films to study.

Both Bishop and Boyd teach classes at the Police Academy, two hours a week. They give lectures to businessmen, bankers and tell them "Don't touch. Call the bomb squad."

Many large companies now have, as a result of these lectures, a floor warden, someone responsible for checking the premises at the beginning and end of the work day. The wardens are taught to look for characteristic packages, things out of place, like an attache case that normally isn't there.

This has increased the number of "false alarms," the suspicious packages reported to police, but in some cases it has saved lives.

When the bomb squad was detailed to the Soledad Trial, Bishop was called four times to inspect the women's lavatory. Each time there was a brown paper bag taped to the underside of a commode, and each time it was found to contain cottage cheese.

Boyd has gingerly opened packages that contained nothing but cracked crab shells. And once he dismantled an entire desk at the British Consulate to satisfy an official who had panicked because it was locked and it wasn't supposed to be.

Bishop once deftly cut into an attache case at a Bank of America and the owner came up to him and yelled: "Hey, what are you doing to my case?"

Says Bishop, "Here I was working on this thing for ten minutes and all the time thinking I was going to blow sky high. And all I could say to this guy was 'Sorry about that.'"

There's a certain amount of comedy in taking elaborate precautions to open a sack full of garbage, but the bomb squad men will tell you over and over: "That's the only way to stay alive."

Because some lunch buckets actually do contain explosives: some shoe boxes do contain pipe bombs, some brown paper bags do contain C-4 plastic. And that was seven sticks of dynamite on the roof of Mission Police Station last March.

The sticks were twenty-four inches long, three inches around and might have killed fifty to one-hundred men if they had gone off as set.

You can't joke away a package of live dynamite, or a pipe bomb filled with one inch staples, or some Underground newspaper that prints details on how to make homemade explosives.

"Treat every device as if it's alive," Bishop tells his men. Because someday they'll unwrap something they've never seen before.

That's way the sergeant wants the squad to have an annual refresher training at the Army's demolition school at Indianhead, Maryland, or at the bomb school at Redstone, Alabama.

"I feel I'm well trained," says Dale Boyd, "but, I'd like to go to Redstone."

There's a nagging worry in the mind of each of the bomb sqadders. And to each other they make a joke of it.

"We all talk about getting zapped," say Bishop. "We talk like we could get it tomorrow."

"I talk to Dale (Boyd) like that ... like it might be the last time I'll ever talk to him."

San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle 1972