San Francisco has been roiled for the last couple days by a particularly troubling mass murder of five who were hard to identify because of the physical savagery of the killings.
On Monday we learned the identities of the victims, all Chinese names, and the accused killer, Binh Thai Luc of Vietnam (pictured below), was arrested. The police have been very tight-lipped, saying over the past few days that the public needn’t worry about a random mass murderer on the loose. That plus the quick arrest indicates some sort of ongoing crime story about which we will surely hear more in the future.
Of further interest was that the accused had a criminal record, but was not deported, due to his home country’s refusal to take him back. So we can’t blame the diverse-criminal-friendly sanctuary city of San Francisco — this time.
We can blame Washington, particularly Congress and the State Department, for not producing a fix for this problem, which is not new. One worthy effort to solve the impasse was Congressman Ted Poe’s legislation in 2011 to require the State Department to deny diplomatic visas to countries that refuse to accept their deported criminal citizens. Congress should dust off that bill (HR 3256) and get it back on track.
S.F. slayings suspect avoided deportation in 2006, San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2012
The suspect in last week’s slayings of five people in San Francisco was ordered deported in 2006 after he served a prison term for robbery and assault, but because his native Vietnam would not issue travel documents for him, immigration officials had to let him go free, officials said Monday.
Binh Thai Luc, 35, of San Francisco was released under the terms of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said undocumented immigrants must be released after six months if their country of origin won’t take them back, according to officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Immigration officials began making arrangements to deport Luc while he was serving an 11-year, 4-month prison term at San Quentin State Prison for a 1998 conviction for robbing employees of a Chinese restaurant in Santa Clara County at gunpoint, according to agency spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
Federal agents took him into custody when he was released from prison Aug. 2, 2006, and a judge ordered him deported a month later.
“However, because Vietnamese authorities declined to provide appropriate travel documents, Luc ultimately had to be released due to the Supreme Court’s ruling” in a 2001 case, Christensen said.
He was released on Dec. 14, 2006, and continued to report to the federal immigration office in San Francisco, she said.
“Unfortunately there are some countries that people are very difficult to remove people to, and Vietnam is one of those countries,” Christensen said. “We had to follow the (Supreme Court) ruling.”
Similar instances of illegal immigrants being released under the ruling, including one involving a man who went on to kill a police officer in Miami in 2008, have resulted in calls for federal legislation to amend the decision.
Luc was arrested Sunday in the unusually violent killings of five people at a home in the southern part of the city. He is being held on suspicion of five counts of homicide and one count of use of a deadly weapon.
A source familiar with the investigation said authorities suspect the killer or killers were trying to collect on a gambling debt.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has again placed a hold on Luc while he is in County Jail, meaning if he is released he must be handed over to federal authorities, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.
In the 1990s robbery case, Luc and another man terrorized employees at gunpoint and stole cash at a Chinese restaurant, according to the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office. Luc was sentenced in 1998 for robbery and assault with a firearm.
His co-defendant was convicted under the state’s “three strikes and you’re out” law and is still in prison.
Luc is being held in connection with five killings in a home at 16 Howth St. near City College of San Francisco. His brother, 32-year-old Brian Luc of San Francisco, was also arrested Sunday but on unrelated narcotics and weapons charges.
On Monday, the city medical examiner’s office released the names of the victims, three women and two men. The women were Wan Yi Wu, 62, Ying Xue Lei, 37, and Chia Huei Chu, 30, and the men were Hua Shun Lei, 65, and Vincent Lei, 32.
Police have said at least four of the victims were related, but their connections were not immediately clear.
The home was owned by Ying Xue “Jess” Lei.
“She was a smart, quiet person, and this whole thing has shocked us,” said Roxanne Albertoli of Qualitative Medical Systems in Emeryville, where Lei was a software engineer.
The manner of killings was so savage that investigators had a hard time figuring out how those in the house died. Police Chief Greg Suhr said Sunday that the cause was a combination of blunt trauma and the use of an “edged weapon.” He did not elaborate.
Suhr said Binh Luc had previous gang connections, but did not suggest the slayings were connected to gang activity.