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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dispute boils over; 1 dead Full News & Video

It began as a routine, low-level call: a tenant dispute at an apartment complex well known 3W9SHOOTING.JPG among Sacramento County sheriff's deputies for its problems.

So benign was the call – a man wanting his roommate removed from their apartment – that an hour and a half passed before a single sergeant could make it to the scene.

Within a half-hour of his arrival, a man was dead, his brother subdued with Tasers and a neighborhood tense with anger and distrust toward law enforcement.

The situation played out at Sun Valley Apartments on the 4700 block of 50th Avenue. From there, 35-year-old Giat Van Truong called the Sheriff's Department just before 9 a.m. to report a dispute with a roommate, whom he wanted deputies to remove, said sheriff's Sgt. Tim Curran.

About an hour and a half later, a sergeant showed up at the complex and learned that Truong's reportedly troublesome roommate was his mother, Curran said.

As the sergeant, whom the department identified only as a 19-year veteran, tried to mediate the dispute, Truong began physically struggling with him, Curran said.

The 45-year-old sergeant used his pepper spray on the man, but with no success. He then pulled a collapsible baton from his utility belt "in an effort to gain control of the suspect," Curran said, but Truong grabbed the baton and struck the sergeant at least once in the head.

"Fearing he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury," the sergeant fired multiple shots at Truong, striking him in the upper body and killing him, Curran said.

Paramedics pronounced Truong dead in a complex breezeway soon thereafter.

The sergeant reported the shooting at 10:37 a.m., six minutes after he arrived at the complex, Curran said.

His call drew scores of deputies and Sacramento police officers, who cordoned off most of 50th Avenue. About a half-hour later, a man driving a gold Toyota Corolla sped down the open portion of 50th Avenue, the tires squealing, and under the police tape.

Boxed in by patrol cars, the driver braked and got out of the car as deputies and officers came running toward him.

In a dramatic encounter witnessed by dozens of people – including neighbors and members of the media – Bieu "Billy" Van Truong, 38, screamed hysterically and repeatedly at deputies, "You shot my brother!"

As a sergeant tried to calm him, three other deputies drew their Tasers. Onlookers poured out of the complex, yelling at Truong and at the deputies while the distraught man continued screaming.

"With the real gun!" Truong screeched after he tore off his shirt. "Shoot me with the real gun! I want to die right now!"

Deputies deployed their Tasers and he fell to the ground. He was handcuffed and taken from the scene.

After being cited for resisting authorities, Billy Truong told The Bee his youngest brother suffered from schizophrenia and sometimes broke down or hallucinated when he didn't take his medication.

He said his brother usually got along with their 80-year-old mother, who cared for him, and speculated that his brother probably forgot to take his medication Tuesday, triggering the dispute.

Billy Truong spoke with The Bee on Tuesday evening while standing with friends inside the apartment complex. Blood was drying in the nearby breezeway as two security guards kept watch.

Truong said his father was a merchant marine in Vietnam, and the family emigrated to the United States in 1983. He described his brother as a talented artist who enjoyed drawing landscapes, Disney characters for his nephew and Buddhist images for his sister.

Giat Truong started breaking the law in his teens – as early as 1993, Sacramento Superior Court records indicate – and going in and out of jail might have exacerbated his illness, Billy Truong said.

Several years ago, Giat Truong attempted suicide and suffered serious injury, further aggravating his schizophrenia, his older brother said.

He said his brother would sometimes talk to himself and mumble about the government taking his house and car, but Billy Truong would try to calm him.

"He don't bother anyone," Truong said.

He was critical of the sergeant's decision to shoot his brother, as were other complex residents.

Charlene Umufuke, 22, said she watched the sergeant's interaction with Giat Truong through the window from an upstairs apartment.

She said she heard Truong yelling, "Get the (expletive) out of my house!" at the sergeant, who she said was threatening to arrest him. Umufuke said she heard another neighbor telling Truong, "Listen to the officer. Get back in the apartment."

She alleges the sergeant shot Truong without provocation, and that the Sheriff's Department's account of a physical fight is "a lie."

"We didn't see any type of altercation," she said.

She said her husband videotaped the moments before and after the gunfire, but not the actual shooting.

She said she wanted the incident taped so people could see that the sergeant was "wrong." However, Umufuke would not show the video to the media without payment.

Curran, the sheriff's spokesman, said her allegations are completely false. He said several independent witnesses said Truong and the sergeant struggled, and that Truong had taken the baton away from the sergeant.

The sergeant also suffered a visible knot on his forehead from being hit with the baton, Curran said. The baton and the sergeant's flashlight were found on the ground, he said.

According to standard procedure, the sergeant has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by sheriff's homicide detectives, Internal Affairs detectives and the District Attorney's Office.

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