On September 15, 1999, overwhelmed by his mother's
death, Dung Trinh went on a shooting rampage at West Anaheim Medical
Center that left three hospital workers dead.
Though Mot Trinh -- the
mother -- died from diabetes complications in a different hospital,
Trinh held the Anaheim Medical Center responsible for her death. The
mother had been treated there several months ago for diabetes and a
Hours after her death,
police say Trinh drove a few blocks to the medical center, then headed
for the critical care unit on the second floor. "We do know that he
believed that something they had done caused his mother's death,"
said Anaheim Police Sgt. Joe Vargas.
Hospital-Slaying Suspect Blames
He thinks mom got bad care due to
his looks, police say
By Jason Ma
Dung Trinh believes that when hospital workers saw
him with his ailing mother, they dismissed her as the parent of a gang
victim and mistreated her, say authorities and acquaintances. And after
Mot Trinh succumbed to a heart attack Sept. 14, her son came back to
take the lives of three people, according to source.
“This is the most serious case we’ve had regarding a
hospital,” said Anaheim Police Sgt. Joe Vargas. “It shows us that the
Vietnamese community is not immune from spontaneous violence. It can be
anybody any place.”
Dung Trinh had suspected that his tattooed appearance
caused some hospital staff to mistreat his 72-year-old mother in June,
when she received hip surgery, according to Huong Nguyen, an office
manager for a doctor who had treated Trinh for kidney failure. According
to the Anaheim Police Department, though, Trinh was not a member of any
gang nor did he associate with criminal elements.
“The hospital, they looked, and he looked like a
gangster,” said Nguyen, recalling what Trinh related to her a week
before the shooting. “They didn’t like it, so [Trinh] came back to see
Dr. Nguyen. He said the hospital didn’t treat her good.”
Nguyen admitted that Trinh’s appearance was initially
daunting to her. “The first time he came into the office I was scared,
too. I saw some tattoos on his hand and neck.”
But over the next two years, Nguyen said, Trinh
proved to be quiet and well-mannered, even helping one patient move into
a new house. “He was very nice,” Nguyen said. About a year ago, she
added, Trinh quit his job as a chef to care for his mother. “Whatever
his mom wanted, he tried to do.”
At 5:43 a.m. Sept. 14, paramedics rushed Trinh’s
mother back to the Anaheim Memorial West Hospital, where she died of a
heart attack. Later that same morning, Trinh, armed with two .38
revolvers and 50 rounds of ammunition, Trinh went to the nurses station
and shot aide Marlene Mustaffa, 60; pharmacist Vincent Rosetti, 51; and
maintenance worker Ronald Robertson, 51, as he was closing the lobby
door to try to keep the gunman out.
Before Robertson was shot, he
tackled Trinh and held him long enough for hospital security to arrive,
according to Vargas. “Had not Robertson tackeld and detained the suspect,
there would have been added victims.” Vargas said.
Mustaffa was on duty while Trinh’s mother was in the
hospital, but the other two had no known connection to her.
Vargas said the hospital had no history of complaints
from either the younger or elder Trinh. Moreover, he said, there is no
evidence suggesting that Mot Trinh was mistreated at the hospital either
in June or this month.
West Anaheim spokeswoman Debra Culver declined to
discuss the elder Trinh’s case for confidentiality reasons, but said the
hospital prides itself on an exemplary level of care.
“We believe we deliver excellent care here,” Culver
said. “We have a very high level of patient satisfaction here. Nothing
like this has ever happened.”
Vargas, too, said the slayings were unusual. Most
crimes involving Anaheim’s 31,000 Asian Americans are related to gangs
or home invasions, he said, citing as an example a drive-by shooting in
Garden Grove last month. Five Asian Americans died when suspected gang
members sprayed an auto shop with gunfire; so far, no arrests have been
While Nguyen agreed that the crime was unusual, she
said she often hears complaints from Vietnamese American patients about
care at area hospitals—and that dissatisfaction over language barriers
and other impediments has gotten markedly higher in recent years. Her
office serves an almost exclusively Vietnamese American clientele,
approximately 80 percent of which are elderly.
“The first time I heard complaints, I thought that
the patient demanded too much,” said Huong Nguyen. “But now 50 to 60
percent of [our] patents complain. That means there’s something wrong
with the hospital. They think [nurses] didn’t treat them good because
they’re Vietnamese and not American. They don’t speak English.”
Because communities adjacent to Anaheim have larger
Vietnamese American populations, Nguyen noted many of the complaints
were directed at hospitals in Garden Grove and Santa Ana, rather than
West Anaheim Medical Center.
At Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center, 30
percent of the hospital staff speaks Korean or Vietnamese and ethnic
liaisons are provided for non-English speakers, said hospital
spokesperson Donna Almand. That hospital also has 130 Vietnamese
American doctors out of a total of 600 and serves ethnic food geared
toward elderly patients who have trouble eating American food, Almand
At West Anaheim, traslation problems primary resolved
by bilingual services over the phone.
Jury Deadlocks on Sentence in Killing Spree
Monte Morin - Los Angeles Times
September 04, 2002
An Orange County jury Tuesday deadlocked on whether a man convicted of
killing three people in a hospital shooting rampage should be executed,
despite the defendant’s dramatic courtroom pleas that he be put to death.
One juror said that after three days of deliberations,
10 members of the panel supported a sentence of life in prison without parole
for Dung D. Trinh, while the remaining two
backed a death sentence.
Trinh, 46, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder
and one count of attempted murder by the same jury last month after
three hours of deliberations. Trinh opened fire at West Anaheim Medical
Center on Sept. 14, 1999.
Trinh, who blamed the hospital for his mother’s death,
took the stand last week, pleading with the jury to impose the death sentence.
“I dare all of you to send me to death,” he
said. “I deserve it. I not only deserve it, I need it. I want it.”
But juror Dorothy Hoffstatter of Huntington Beach
said some on the panel were not swayed by Trinh’s comments. “We were not
there to please him,” Hoffstatter said. “I did not think he deserved the death penalty
Trinh armed himself heavily and entered the medical
center bent on avenging the death of his mother, who Trinh believed died
because of poor care by hospital employees, prosecutors said.
Defense lawyers did not deny that Trinh killed hospital
maintenance director Ronald Robertson, 50, nurse’s aide Marlene Mustaffa,
60, and pharmacist Vincent Rosetti, 50. But they argued that Trinh was
suffering emotional and physical breakdowns at the time.
Trinh’s 72-year-old mother, Mot, had died at another
hospital the morning of the shootings but had had her hip replaced at
West Anaheim earlier.
Deputy Public Defender Sharon Petrosino told jurors
Trinh believed West Anaheim Medical Center hastened her death by failing
to provide a Vietnamese translator. Because he was distraught over
his mother’s death Trinh did not act out of evil intent and therefore
did not deserve the death penalty, Petrosino said.
Prosecutor Bruce Moore told jurors, however, that
Trinh acted in cold blood, choosing his targets deliberately and firing.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution would comment
on the case Tuesday. They will meet before Judge John
J. Ryan on Sept. 12 to discuss selection of a new jury for the
A new jury would hear testimony from Trinh and his
victims and resume discussions on his punishment. Although prosecutors
sought the death penalty during the first round of deliberations, they
have the option of seeking life in prison without parole instead.
Two days after the shooting, Orange County Dist.
Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced that he planned to seek the
death penalty against Trinh–as he would against anyone who goes on
a killing rampage.
Orange County judge sentences hospital shooter to
sentenced a former Vietnamese refugee to death Monday for a 1999
shooting rampage that killed three hospital employees.
Superior Court Judge John Ryan followed a jury's
recommendation last month that Dung Trinh be sentenced to death. 2
previous juries had deadlocked on whether Trinh, 47, should be sentenced
to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Trinh repeatedly told jurors and the media that he
deserves to die.
Trinh's lawyers said he was in a highly emotional
state when he stormed into West Anaheim Medical Center on Sept. 14,
1999, and began shooting. His mother had died at another hospital
earlier that day and Trinh's lawyers said he blamed West Anaheim Medical
Center for her death because she previously had been treated there.
He killed nursing assistant Marlene Mustaffa, 60;
pharmacist Vincent Rosetti, 50; and maintenance director Ronald
Robertson, 50. A jury last August convicted Trinh of 1st-degree murder
Jurors Vote for Death for Killer of 3
The third panel in the sentencing of Dung D. Trinh, who went on a
shooting rampage at an Anaheim hospital in 1999, grants his wish
By Christine Hanley and Stuart Pfeifer - Los Angeles Times
March 20, 2003
A man who dared a jury to give him the
death penalty for murdering three hospital workers during a 1999
shooting rampage in Anaheim finally got his wish Wednesday.
After two previous juries deadlocked on the case, a
panel of eight women and four men deliberated less than four hours
before voting in favor of a death sentence for Dung D. Trinh.
The decision comes a week after Trinh taunted jurors
by telling them he executed the West Anaheim Medical Center employees
because he hated Americans, an outburst his attorney described as an
attempt to provoke the jury into sending him to death row.
The victims' relatives, locking arms and holding
hands in three middle rows of the courtroom, gasped, sobbed and hugged
as the court clerk read the vote aloud. One family member lifted both
arms to the sky and shrieked with joy.
"I didn't expect a decision this fast, but I'm glad
it's over," said Suzanne Robertson, who sat through all three trials of
the man who killed her husband, maintenance director Ronald Robertson. "Our
family has been through pure hell."
Trinh sat motionless between his two public defenders
as Orange County Superior Court Judge John Ryan polled the jurors. At
one point, he turned to one of his lawyers and asked when the judge
would impose his death sentence.
The judge has the option of reducing the sentence to
life without parole when Trinh returns to court April 14. In California,
death sentences are automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Trinh, 46, was convicted in August of three counts of
first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Jurors in his
first trial voted 10 to 2 in favor of life in prison without parole.
Three months later, a second jury voted 11 to 1 in favor of the death
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said
Wednesday that he agreed with the jury's decision and that he is
confident the latest verdict will be upheld by higher courts.
"I don't think the prior two penalty phases will make
a difference," he said. "I do expect it to hold up on appeal. There's no
question whatsoever that the defendant got a fair trial."
Jurors said they were swayed by the depravity of the
crimes and were not particularly moved by the defense's argument that
Trinh, a longtime caregiver for his bedridden mother, was distraught
over his mother's death, which he blamed on the hospital.