Born To Kill
This book was an extremely captivating read that I had a hard time putting down. This exciting novel was about an upstart gang of Vietnamese youths that formed in Chinatown who violently made their presence felt, they were known by the name Born to Kill. This book had many legal issues that we discussed in class and only a couple of issues that were not handled correctly in my eyes. This is a book that anyone that is interested in Asian organized crime should read.
During the Vietnam War many people fled from Vietnam to America in order to start a new life of prosperity and to forget the horrors of the war. When many families fled they were either separated, or the parents only had the money to send one child. The latter was the case with most of the boys in the Born to Kill gang. They all came to America as refugees and were placed in foster homes that were some times no better than the camps that they had recently survived. When they found other people from Vietnam that offered an alternative solution, they were willing to do anything to repay the debt of loyalty they felt to there benefactor, in this case David Thai.
The book mainly revolved around one main person Tinh Ngo, a member of the gang. Through out the book Tinh or Timmy as he was called, ran the entire gambit of emotions from total loyally to being flipped and being the key witness in the federal case against the main players in the gang. The gang committed every kind of crime from petty robberies to murder. Tinh started his career as a criminal by robbing a message parlor in Chinatown that was in rival gang territory this robbery was a simple one that went off without a hitch, it gave him a false sense of ease in committing robberies. Over the months Tinhs involvement in crimes escalated until he was arrested, for the first time, and he spent some time in prison.
This disenchanted him some about the gang life and killed some of his feeling of invulnerability.When Tinh was released from prison he resumed his role within the gang, starting right back up with the robberies and such. As time passed Tinh became a trusted member of the gang and became very close to the main players such as David Thai, Lan Tram and others. The major incident that turned Tinh away from the gang was when they traveled down to Doraville Georgia in order to expand and rob some easier targets. When they attempt to rob a jewelry store things go gravely wrong and the owner ends up getting shot at point blank in the head and he is then left for dead. This cold-blooded killing of a man that did nothing more than try to protect his store made Tinh see the truth. Tinh goes on with his duties inside the gang until he is arrested for assault and given the offer to become an informant, which he accepts.
Tinh talks to the NYPD then to federal agents in the ATF about the smuggling of guns. Soon Tinh is placed back out on the streets as an undercover agent and is to inform them of any major crimes that are to occur. He is also to find out who was responsible for the assassination of Sen Van Ta a business owner on Canal Street, where the BTK are based, who openly co-operated with the police in identifying BTK members responsible for various crimes. Over a period of time the ATF racks up a large amount of evidence about a number of crimes and finally arrest a dozen of the major gang members and with Tinhs testimony they are all sent to prison except a few who were turned and testified with the ATF.
From the beginning of the book I was starting to notice things that the gang was doing that we had talked about in class and I also notice things the police did not do that they should have. From the first time of the first robbery till when Tinh turn into their informant the police do little to nothing about the gang problem in Chinatown. Much of the problem is the people themselves because many of the people of Chinatown were too afraid for their safety and the safety of their families to come forward. It was also pointed out in this book that many of the police were either willing to turn cheek to the problem or that they were paid off by the bigger gangs and tongs such as the Ghost Shadows and the Flying Dragons. Police did not really even understand the extent of the problem till they came under the criticizing eye of the media when Sen Van Ta was shot. The media had a field day because Sen had been a key witness in robbery, extortion, assault, and numerous other crimes. This meant that there was no protection, for someone to be able to walk up to him on the street and just shoot him without anyone on seeing a thing meant the cops were not doing there jobs. It was this incident which made the police so anxious to find an informant within the Born to Kill gang.
One of the major things that I did notice right away was that when the officers made the offer for Tinh to become a snitch he had no lawyer present. The book never said weather or not he had declined the right to have an attorney but I would have assumed that with someone as intelligent as David Thai he would have been given a lawyer before the officers could make any type of plea offer. Which we learned in had to be offered also under the Miranda rights so that even if he couldnt afford one he would have been appointed one.
One thing that took me completely by surprise was the way the investigators handled the people every time they stopped a crime during the investigation. There were four times that the investigators knew about a crime before it happened and every time they broke it up they made no arrests even though a couple of times they should have. One instance was when the investigators stopped a robbery in Rochester they found two loaded unregistered guns they made no arrests and let all of the gang members go. I would have thought that if they found the weapons they would have to arrest the boys because it was a crime and to just let them go could be a danger. I understand the police motives but I thought that they could not just look the other way. This also happened when the police broke up another robbery this time they confiscated weapons and had an arrest warrant on one of the criminals and they turned the other cheek.
I was also surprised at the role the NYPD played in this whole investigation. I figured that since the gang had been traveling and crossing state lines that is would have become a federal case and that would have ended all NYPD involvement. When in fact the role they played was completely the opposite, one of the lead detectives on the case was a NYPD detective and the other was an ATF agent.Even when they traveled down to Doraville Georgia, the NYPD detective went along and assisted in an arrest. This completely threw me because I thought that he had no jurisdiction outside of the city limits.
Community policing which was one thing that we discussed in class played a very large role in the conviction of the gang members. The case that the gangsters were being charged with required the communitys cooperation. Chinatown is a region that is famous for being cynical of the police so when they were asked to testify against some gangsters they were very fearful. With the assistance of some Chinese and Vietnamese speaking detectives they convinced enough people to testify that the prosecution could be successful.
The other type of policing that you saw in this situation was the service style policing. This was exhibited because they put the communitys concerns before the concerns of an individual. This was showed when the police were more worried about busting the whole gang than just a couple of its lowly members and let them go on gun charges. It is also indicated though out the whole investigation by letting Tinh put his life on the line gathering information. After one day of recording they could have arrested a few of the gang members but instead they just stock-piled evidence so that when they finally made there move it would be a big one. The bust that they finally ended up making was huge and it took the twelve biggest members of the gang off the street forever.
One of things in this book that differed from what we learned in class was the interrogation technique. They investigator were said to have never actually hit any of the suspects but the threat did come up a few times. The book also said that the suspects were allowed to have there lawyers but that the investigator doing the interview warned the suspects not to ever plead the fifth or he would be sorry in prison be cause the police could have them killed. Most of this we learned was illegal and the information gathered would have not stood up in court but the court did not know about how the interrogation was conducted so the evidence was admitted.
When the trial final ended David Thai, Lan Tram, and all of the other gangsters were behind bars for the rest of their lives. While now Tinh Ngo live in the west some where with a job as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant he has finally got the new begging his parents sent him here to get. In china town the streets are a little safer for a little while until another gang move onto Canal Street and starts the whole thing over again. When they do the ATF and the NYPD will be watching closer and be ready to move in and take the new gang off the street.
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