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Police suspect gangs in fight along Bayway

By MIKE BRASSFIELD

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- A suspected gang fight Tuesday along the Pinellas Bayway put two teens in the hospital with gunshot wounds and left a Samurai sword, machete and assorted kitchen knives scattered on a beach.

The brawl, involving up to 20 youths on the stretch of the Bayway linking Tierra Verde to Isla Del Sol, was reported by a passing motorist.

Detectives think the fight may be connected to three earlier attacks -- a stabbing, a shooting and a beating -- over the past month in St. Petersburg.

Everyone in Tuesday's brawl was Asian, witnesses said. Police say it may have been a clash between rival Asian youth gangs.

The two teens who were shot were Dixie Hollins High School students, police said. Bin Nguyen, 15, of Pinellas Park was shot in the right foot. Sang Huynh, 17, who lives near Kenneth City, also was shot. Their wounds were not considered life-threatening.

Police said the two were driven to Bayfront Medical Center by 17-year-old Loc Than Nguyen, who narrowly avoided being shot in his Geo Prizm when a bullet went through the back of his seat.

The brawl took place on the sandy strip of land just north of the bridge to Tierra Verde. The first person to report it was a motorist who drove by about 3:15 p.m. and called 911 from a nearby 7-Eleven, police said.

By the time officers arrived, the teenagers had left. Police found 9mm bullet casings and bladed weapons discarded on both sides of the road. The machete was found in shallow water.

Sgt. Dennis Simmons of the city's gang intelligence team thinks the brawl was part of a series of violent incidents. On Jan. 21, two teens were stabbed outside the Publix where they worked at 3501 49th St. N. Police say Huy "Johnny" Ly, 17, and La Som, 19, haven't been able to identify their attackers.

On Jan. 27, a man named Phong Thanh Bui was nicked in the leg by a bullet in Pho'97, a Vietnamese restaurant at 3090 34th St. N. Matthew Ruark, 17, is charged with aggravated battery in that shooting. Prosecutors are charging him as an adult, a move Ruark's lawyer calls unnecessary.

On Feb. 1, 19-year-old Jonathan Gonzalez was hit in the head with a baseball bat or 2 by 4 when he stopped his car at a red light at 62nd Avenue N and 16th Street, near Northeast High School. Dui Nguyen, 19, was charged with aggravated battery.

The roots of the ongoing dispute may go even further, Simmons said.

The teens stabbed at a Publix may have been targeted because they and Ruark witnessed a drive-by shooting attempt about a month earlier. And all these incidents could be linked to the 1998 shotgun slaying of 17-year-old Sinxay Phrasavath, who was killed in a gang confrontation.

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