Suspect's Last Acts: Love Note With His Will -- Murder-Suicide Of Half Brothers Sought In Massacre Stuns Family

TACOMA - Shortly before police arrived, Khanh Van Trinh scribbled a note professing his love for his girlfriend, telling her to care for their two children and keep them out of gangs.

Trinh, 17, wanted in connection with the July 5 massacre of five people in the Trang Dai restaurant and karaoke bar, handed the note to his girlfriend, Chanta Chouap. Then his half-brother Ri Ngoc Le, 22, shot him before turning the gun on himself in the car parked at the Tacoma waterfront.

"This was a tragedy in every sense of the word," Tacoma Police Chief Phillip Arreola said yesterday during a meeting with community leaders the day after the murder-suicide.

Arreola made a plea for the remaining fugitive, Samath Mom, 18, to turn himself in, promising he would "ensure his safety." He also urged Mom's relatives to talk him into surrendering if they know his whereabouts.

It is time to end this ordeal, Arreola and other community leaders emphasized during a meeting at Lincoln Bowl, across the street from where the Trang Dai massacre occurred earlier this month.

The two half-brothers had been charged with murder along with Mom and five other young men already in custody for the shootings at the Trang Dai.

In custody for the Trang Dai shootings are Jimmie Chea, 18; Sarun Truck Ngeth, 19; Marvin Lofi Leo, 17; John Phet, 16; and Veasna Sok, 17. Each is charged with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and assault.

Yesterday, community leaders and business owners gathered here looking for assurances that such an incident won't happen again, that their community is safe and that they can depend on the police.

Mostly, they were still stunned by Tuesday morning's murder-suicide as Le and Trinh sat in a car before a planned meeting with an attorney. So were relatives who gathered at a nearby house to talk about the pending funeral.

Some had thought the brothers would go to a lawyer to turn themselves in. Others had heard as early as Sunday the two were contemplating suicide. That they went to meet an attorney but ended up dying in a murder-suicide suggested to relatives the two were undecided.

"At the last moment (when the police arrived), no one knew they were going to do that," said the sister of Trinh's girlfriend, who didn't want to be identified. "(Trinh) was writing (the note at) the last minute. It was on a little scrap piece of paper."

Trinh also wrote out a will, leaving everything to his girlfriend and two children.

Relatives say the brothers knew the end was near, since their photographs were in newspapers and on TV.

"They felt there was no one else they could turn to, that no one could help them," she said.

It was a dramatic change in attitude from the day after the shooting. Several witnesses recall seeing the half-brothers lunching at a Vietnamese restaurant, while the police were investigating.

The restaurant owner even told them the massacre should be a lesson on why young people should stay out of trouble, recalled Billy Johnson, president of the Lincoln International Business District.

Later, they were also seen at a pool hall around the corner from where the shooting took place.

"Man, how bold is that?" Johnson said, shaking his head.

But they kept a low profile after that. A few days after the Trang Dai shootings, the half-brothers had stopped coming to La Vie cafe, where they had always ordered meatballs and iced milk coffee for breakfast, said owner Kim Bui.

Yesterday at the Lincoln Bowl, folks hung around after the 40-minute meeting chatting about the murder-suicide, saying how it will be a long time before this Asian community recovers and wondering when reporters will leave.

Kevin Le, whose family owns the Vien Dong restaurant, shook his head. "Man, I hope this is the end."

Tan Vinh's phone message number is 206-515-5656. His e-mail address is: