A story for every victim

William Chau, 59

William Chau, a 59-year-old Vietnamese man, died Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, after he was shot by an El Monte police officer in the 3900 block of Glen Way in El Monte, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records. 

The incident began when officers were called to Chau’s home at 7:55 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The call was originally about a structure fire, but when officers arrived they saw a man, later identified as Chau, walk out of the house holding a woman at knife point, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Eddie Hernandez. 

The woman, later identified as Chau’s wife, Lan Hoa Vuong, 58, had burns over 90 percent of her body, Hernandez said. 

“She was so burned, her clothes had burned off,” Hernandez said. “He was holding the victim with his left hand around her neck and a large Rambo-type knife to her clavicle.”

The officers ordered Chau to drop his knife, Hernandez said, but he allegedly ignored their repeated commands. “He started to raise the knife, and an officer fired once, striking him [Chau] in the face,” Hernandez said.

After the shooting, officers checked the burning house for additional victims and discovered Dang in a rear bedroom. They had to break a window to reach her, said Det. Ray Lugo, and discovered she was suffering from burns and multiple stab wounds in her back. 

A third victim was later found nearby. He also had burns on his body and stab wounds on his right arm, Lugo said, and had run from the house to get help.

Investigators learned that earlier in the morning, Vuong was working in the kitchen when Chau allegedly threw accelerant on her body — probably cooking oil — and set her on fire, Lugo said.

Vuong’s mother and the third person tried to help her, Hernandez said, but they also caught fire. Chau allegedly stabbed them repeatedly, Hernandez said, even though he was burning as well.

The fire spread throughout the house, which was engulfed in flames when the officers arrived, Hernandez said.

All four family members were taken to a nearby hospital, but the third person was the only one who survived. 

Dang was pronounced dead with multiple stab wounds at 8:37 that morning, according to coroner’s records. Her daughter, Vuong, was pronounced dead at 4:48 p.m. the following day, Sept. 10, from the systemic infection caused by her burns. Chau was pronounced dead five days later, on Sept. 14, at 4:52 p.m., according to coroner’s records. 

Vuong and Chau had four adult children, who told investigators that their father had been threatening to harm their mother since they were children, Lugo said. 

Chau had checked himself into a mental health facility several months earlier and was diagnosed with a mental illness before he was released, investigators learned. The family converted part of the garage into a room for Chau, and that was where he slept and spent most of his time, Lugo said.

The family never informed the police about the threats. "Their mom never wanted to let anybody know about it," Lugo said.

"They always thought things would get better."

Contact the Homicide Report. Follow @latimeshomicide on Twitter.

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