Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


            Let us not forget Thien Minh Ly, a Vietnamese American who was murdered by Gunner Lindberg due to a hate crime on January 28, 1996. We, the comrades of Unit 1012: The VFFDP, will not forget him and remember how he lived on this earth. We will be his voice for the injustice he and his loved ones had suffered.

Thien Minh Ly

           Please see the words in bold blue ink to remember his time on the earth and treasure his memories.

A Life Stolen, a Death Mourned

Memorial: Thien Minh Ly is remembered as a quiet man who constantly thought of his family, his friends and his future. He was stabbed a week ago at Tustin High School.


SANTA ANA — About 150 friends and relatives of a 24-year-old man who was stabbed to death on a Tustin High School tennis court gathered Monday to bid farewell to the UCLA and Georgetown University graduate.

In a marble-facade mausoleum adorned with gladioli, roses and lilies, friends took turns recalling their memories of Thien Minh Ly as his favorite songs played in the background.

At the end of the funeral service, Ly's 48-year-old father, Thi Ly, stood solemnly clutching a framed photo of his son.

"We have had tremendous support from the community, from friends at UCLA and others, to whom we are indebted," the father told the gathering at Fairhaven Memorial Park Mortuary. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

The memorial service was a painful closure for family members and friends, who were stunned a week ago when Thien Ly was found sprawled on a tennis court, riddled with more than a dozen stab wounds and his in-line skates still on.

Coroner's investigators said Ly died sometime between midnight Jan. 28 and 7:30 a.m. Jan. 29. Police detectives worked around the clock and over the weekend to try to piece together clues, but so far, no suspect has been named, Police Sgt. Brent Zicarelli said.

The slaying sent a shock wave through Little Saigon, where it became a top news item on radio and in newspapers.

Ly graduated in the top 10 of his class at Tustin High School and went on to UCLA, where he received a bachelor's degree in biology and English. In August 1995, he earned a master's degree at Georgetown specializing in physiology and biophysics.

The graduate often talked about becoming a doctor but in the past few months had entertained thoughts of going to law school.

Ly had volunteered with community organizations and was constantly thinking of ways to promote Vietnamese language and culture, friends said. While at UCLA, he served as president of the university's Vietnamese Students Assn.

"On the outside, he rarely spoke," said Duc Kim Nguyen, 46, of Orange, who knew Ly since 1989. "But on the inside, he was constantly talking, constantly thinking . . . thinking about his family, his friends and his future."

Nguyen said in a eulogy that she had noticed a sadness in Ly's voice when she last spoke with him a few weeks ago.

"I meant to call him to have a heart-to-heart talk," Nguyen said. "On the night of his death, I had picked up the phone to call him when my husband came home, so I put off the call. My husband and I then sat down to eat dinner, and while I was working on my first bowl of rice, the phone rang. It was my son calling to tell me that Thien is dead.

"I wish I could give him one more hug. I miss him."

Several students who knew Ly from UCLA spoke of the first time they met him and read poems written for him "because he loved poetry," said Mai Pham, 22.

The two-hour event ended with a procession of mourners, each holding a flower. They tossed their last token of love at the casket.

Ly's father, still clutching his son's photo, let out a wail as he watched the flowers pile up.

Remembering Thien Minh Ly 

Thien Minh Ly was brutally murdered seven years ago today.
 Another Senseless Hate Crime

By Mai Pham

USENET Posting
April 8, 1996 

Tragedy befell the Vietnamese community on Jan 29, 1996, when Thien Minh Ly, a 24-year old Vietnamese man and former graduate of UCLA, was murdered while rollerblading in his Tustin hometown high school tennis court. Ly was found lying in a pool of blood the following morning by a janitor, maimed by an excessive number of stabbing wounds to various parts of his body, as well as slashing wounds to his throat.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, friends, family, and acquaintances could not fathom the senselessness of the crime that ended Ly's life. All who knew him remembered him with love, respect, and admiration. A man of exemplary integrity, intelligence, confidence and spirit, Ly embodied the model Vietnamese American. He was a dutiful and loving son to his parents, a beloved older brother to his younger siblings, and a friend that one could always count on in times of need. He was an academic in endless pursuit of knowledge: at UCLA, he obtained both an English and a Biology degree in four years, had just completed a Master's in Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown, and was contemplating the study of Law just before his death. While at UCLA, Thien was a leader. He wholeheartedly dedicated himself to the UCLA Vietnamese Students' Association (VSA) as VSA's Culture Night Director, VSA's newsletter editor, and finally, at the height of his VSA involvement, as VSA President '92-'93.

Hundreds attended the candlelight vigil held for him the same week he was murdered. An article about his death hangs in the UCLA English counseling office. Flowers from all over the VN community overflowed the mortuary during his viewing and funeral. Tears flowed endlessly for Thien; his was a loss mourned by all.

It was not until March 2, 1996 that the mystery surrounding Ly's murder ended. That day, police arrested Gunner Lindberg, age 21, and Dominic Christopher, age 17, after discovering a letter that Lindberg had written to a former prison inmate in New Mexico. The letter contained graphic details about the murder, as well as the writer's apparent insoucience about the whole incident. Sandwiched between birthday plans, news about a friend's baby, and talk about the need for a new tattoo was this boastful account of what happened the night of Jan 29th:

"Oh I killed a jap a while ago I stabbed him to Death at Tustin High school I walked up to him Dominic was with me and I seen this guy Roller blading and I had a knife. WE walk in the tennis court where he was I walked up to him. Dominic was right there I walked right up to him and he was scared I looked at him and said 'Oh I thought I knew you' and he got happy that he wasn't gona get jumped. Then I hit him..."

"I pulled the knife out a butcher knife and he said 'no' then I put the knife to his throught and asked him Do you have a car. And he grabed my hand that I had the knife in and looked at me, trying to get a description of me so I stomped on his head 3 times and each time said 'Stop loooking at me' then he was kinda knocked out Dazzed then I stabbed him in the side about 7 or 8 times he rolled over a little so I stabbed his back out 18 or 19 times then he layed flat and I slit one side of his throught on his jugular vain. Oh, the sounds the guy was making were like Uhhh. then Dominic said 'do it again ' and I said 'I already Did. Dude. "Ya, Do it again' so I cut his other juggular vain, and Dominic said "Kill him Do it again' and I said 'he's already Dead' Dominic Said 'Stab him in the heart' So I stabbed him about 20 or 21 times in the heart..."

"Then I wanted to go back and look, so we Did and he was dieing just then taking in some bloody gasps of air so I nidged his face with my shoe a few times, then i told Dominic to kick him, so he kicked the f--- out of his face and he still has blood on his Shoes all over...then I ditched the knife, after whiping it clean onto the side of the 5 freeway...here's the clippings from the newspaper we were on all the channels." (LA. Times, Orange County, "Grisly Account of Ly Killing Believed Penned by Suspect," 3/7/96)

Since the time of arrest, both parties have confessed their part in the murder. The original arraignment date was set for March 22, 1996 for Lindberg, but has been pushed back to April 19, 1996. Likewise, Christopher's arraignment has been pushed back twice. It is not known yet whether Christopher will be tried as an adult.

Was there racial motivation behind the crime? White supremecist paraphernalia were found at Lindberg's and Christopher's home. Lindberg carelessly referred to Ly as a "jap" in the letter he wrote to his friend. Yet Lindberg staunchly denies a racial motive. The Tustin police, too, seem reluctant to publicize the racial implications of the crime. For instance, the Tustin Weekly omitted the words "I killed a jap" in their rendition of Lindberg's letter (Tustin Weekly, "Graphic death scene details described," 3/8/96) Furthermore, both the Tustin Weekly and the LA Times have stated that the police attribute robbery as the motive for Ly's murder.

In light of this information, the inference that can be made is obvious. Racial motivation undoubtedly played a part in the murder. For how could Gunner Lindberg and Dominic Christopher so easily, blithely, and violently kill Thien Minh Ly if they respected him as a human being? They "stomped" on him with about as much thought as they would step on an ant. They listened to his cries of pain and torture with sadistic delight. They continually attacked him when he was already helpless, and then, to add further insult to the injury, Christopher kicked Ly's bleeding face. To the two murderers, Thien was nothing but a "jap," a sub-human organism whose life they had a right to take.

But what did Thien mean to those who loved him; how did they feel? They are heart-broken, bereft, angry that his death was caused by an unnecessary, random act of violence. And what about the Vietnamese Community? News about Ly's murder and the ensuing arrest of his two assailants have horrified and enraged the Vietnamese community in Orange county, so much so that the Vietnaese Community of Orange County (VNCOC), a non-profit human and social services group, and various other organizations throughout the VN community in Orange county, joined under the name of the Thien Minh Ly Ad Hoc Committee. Their purpose is to ensure that the murderers receive just punishment for taking Ly's life.

A candlelight vigil was held April 6, 1996 by the Council of Asian Pacific Americans of Orange County to raise awareness about violence against Asian-Americans; one of the people being honored was Thien Minh Ly.

WE must preserve Thien Minh Ly's name in order to remind others that no one is safe in the U.S while ignorance and racial hate run rampant. WE must strive to become more aware of the dangers facing Asain-Americans in present day American society adn educate others that all our cultures are beautiful. WE must cry out that a tragedy such as this could happen and work to teach everyone to respect all of humanity.

Thien Remembered as Role Model

By Mai Pham
The Daily Bruin
February 2, 1996 

Tears streamed down my face upon hearing my English professor quote from Boethius: "The desire to do evil may be due to human weakness; but for the wicked to overcome the innocent in the sight of God - that is monstrous ... If there is a God, why is there evil? And if there is no God, how can there be good?"

These questions still ring in my head when I think about Thien Minh Ly, a 1994 UCLA graduate and a very dear friend of mine who was mercilessly stabbed more than a dozen times before he died this past weekend in Tustin. His body was found immersed in a pool of blood on a Tustin High School tennis court by a janitor earlier this week.

All who were close to him are bereft with sorrow; struggling with the mystery of the heinous crime that cut short a life so full of promise. No one knows why Thien was killed so brutally, but friends and family know why he should have lived.

I can still hear the distinctive quality of Thien's voice encouraging me, joking with me, philosophizing about life, giving me advice or asking my opinion. In many ways, I aspired to be what he embodied: a confident, determined, intelligent, and outgoing Vietnamese American whose unquestioned integrity and leadership abilities made him an outstanding role model.

In high school, Thien was a junior varsity tennis player as well as an honors student graduating with a 4.53 GPA. At UCLA, he completed his double major in English and biology in four years. (He later went to Georgetown University where he earned a master's degree in physiology and biophysics in one year.) Amid this rigorous coursework, Thien involved himself in extracurricular passions.

While at UCLA, he immersed himself in the Vietnamese Students' Association, was truly proud of his ancestral heritage and wished to inspire such pride in his Vietnamese peers.

Since he loved to read and write, Thien took the first initiative in 1992 to start a Vietnamese Students' Association newsletter - Lien Lac - and became its chief editor. Without his commitment to its production, the newsletter has ceased to exist. In addition, Thien also served as director of the annual Vietnamese Students' Association Culture Night.

In 1993, he became the UCLA Vietnamese Students' Association president. As president, he took special care to make the acquaintance of every member, made a point to reach out to incoming freshmen, frequently offering himself as advisor, mentor and friend.

For the past three nights, all of Thien's friends and I have gotten together, mutually grieving his loss, reminiscing about the wonderful times spent with him, racking our brains for answers about his death.

We don't know why you had to die, Thien, but we love you and miss you. We remember those many happy midnight excursions to Santa Monica beach when we sang love songs in Vietnamese. We remember that you were the one we could go to whenever we had problems, especially when we needed guidance and support about what to do with our lives.
We remember campfire stories and hiking and swimming across that freezing cold river in Yosemite. We even remember that year you decided to shave your head and how it looked kind of funny while you waited for your hair to grow back. There are so many good times, so many memories.

We especially remember that you promised to be our friend forever. What will happen to that 10-year reunion we planned on having, Thien, when we pull out those Lien Lac letters that you put together?

Thien wanted to publish an anthology of poetry one day, and loved to read and write. I would like to dedicate these lines from Yeat's "Easter 1916" to him:

This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought ...
He ... has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty was born.

Thien, too, was on the verge of "coming into his force" when he died, having completed his studies and about to embark into the working world. "He might have won fame in the end," as his potential for becoming a future leader of Vietnamese Americans was evident. All who know him attest to the fact that he was "so sensitive," and "so daring and sweet." But this violent act has prematurely ended his life, Thien "has been changed ... transformed utterly." In the tragedy that is his death, "A terrible beauty was born," the beauty of spirit and soul.

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