Fort Worth man faces life in prison for killing three men during Haltom City shootout

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A Haltom City police officer testified Tuesday that he was making a routine traffic stop on Oct. 13, 2010, when he heard about 10 gunshots.

After calling for backup, patrol officer Tim Clontz said, he heard at least 19 shots.

When two other officers arrived, they headed for the 2200 block of Ola Lane.

As they walked toward the end of the street, the officers saw three men, evidently dead or dying, Clontz testified.

"It was obvious that this was not your typical call," Clontz said to jurors.

Clontz took the witness stand on the opening day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Tuan Nguyen, 41, of Fort Worth.

Prosecutors David Hagerman and Robert Huseman said the three victims -- Hai Phan, 46, Nhan Tran, 25, and Binh Lam, 37 -- were executed outside a residence known for gambling in Haltom City's Vietnamese community.

Nguyen drove himself to a hospital after shooting himself during the gun battle, Hagerman said in his opening argument.

If he is convicted, Nguyen will be sentenced automatically to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Tarrant County district attorney's office decided not to seek the death penalty.

Another witness Tuesday was Tran's uncle, Thien Nguyen, who testified that the men were at an Arlington bar and made plans to meet up later at a Fort Worth club.

Lam became angry after speaking twice on the phone to Tuan Nguyen, Thien Nguyen said.

Another witness, Duy Anh Nguyen, testified that Lam and Tuan Nguyen argued over money that Lam thought Tuan Nguyen owed him.

None of the Nguyens are related, prosecutors said.

The men, along with at least two other friends, met outside the residence on Ola Lane, where the argument between Lam and Tuan Nguyen intensified, Duy Nguyen and Thien Nguyen testified.

Tuan Nguyen walked toward Lam with his hands behind his back and Lam pulled out a gun, Thien Nguyen testified.

"I told them to chill out and not do anything," Thien Nguyen said.

Lam told Thien Nguyen that nothing was going to happen and that they were just going to talk. Lam handed over his gun, and Thien Nguyen testified that he put it in his pocket.

Instead of talking, the two men began fighting, Thien Nguyen testified.

"Binh was drunk," Thien Nguyen said. "Tuan pushed him and he fell down."

That's when the shooting started. Another man fired in Tuan Nguyen's direction, and Tuan Nguyen shot back, Thien Nguyen said.

Thien Nguyen said he and his nephew ran and hid behind bushes, watching as the death toll mounted.

"I saw Tuan pull out a gun and point it at Binh," Thien Nguyen said. "Tuan shot Binh in the back of the head."

As Phan ran to his car, Thien Nguyen said, Tuan Nguyen chased and shot him.

"Tuan opened the door and shot at him about five or six times," Thien Nguyen said. "And then he closed the door and shot him through the window about three or four more times. I tried to keep my head down after that."

But Tuan Nguyen walked toward the bushes and fired at Thien Nguyen's nephew.

"When I went behind the bushes, I wasn't going to shoot him because me and him got no problem," Thien Nguyen said. "But he ran over there, so I had no choice but to defend myself. He pointed a gun at my nephew. He shot my nephew, and I shot back at Tuan."

The trial continues this morning in state District Judge George Gallagher's court.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

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