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Benjamin NG

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Gambling club robbery
Number of victims: 13
Date of murders: February 18, 1983
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1962
Victims profile: Men (Chinese gamblers)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison August 1983
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Wah-Mee by Todd Matthews (www.wahmee.com)

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Wah Mee massacre was a mulitiple homicide on February 18, 1983, in which Kwan Fai "Willie" Mak, Wai-Chiu "Tony" Ng, and Benjamin Ng gunned down 14 people in the Wah Mee gambling club on Maynard Alley S. just south of S. King Street in Seattle's Chinatown.

Thirteen of their victims lost their lives, but one survived to testify against the three in one of Seattle's highest-profile trials ever. It remains the worst mass murder in the State's history.

The Wah Mee club operated illegally in a basement space in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood. The club's regulars included many wealthy restaurant-owners, several of whom were among the victims. Security at the club was based in part on a system of passing through multiple successive doors, which had been used in similar Chinatown gambling dens for generations, and had usually been quite effective.

Mak and his accomplices defeated the system only because they were known and trusted by the people at the club. Their presumed intent was to leave no witnesses, since club patrons could readily identify them, as, in fact, the one survivor did. In fact, Mak had been planning the robbery for weeks, and he enlisted Benjamin Ng, and later Tony Ng.

Aftermath

On February 24, 1983, Benjamin Ng and Willie Mak were charged with 13 counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Benjamin Ng was represented by famed Seattle defense lawyer John Henry Browne. Mak was represented by the Associated Counsel for the Accused lawyer Jim Robinson. The State was represented by William Downing and Robert Lasnik.

Wai-Chiu (Tony) Ng became the third suspect, charged in absentia on March 30, 1983 with 13 counts of aggravated first-degree murder.

In August 1983 Benjamin Ng was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In October 1983, Willie Mak was convicted of murder and sentenced to die.

On June 15, 1984 Tony Ng became the 387th person to be listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list (see FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, 1980s). He was arrested October 4, 1984 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Tony Ng was acquitted in April 1985 of murder, but convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and a single count of assault with a deadly weapon. Each robbery charge brought a minimum sentence of five years, to be served consecutively.

On February 17, 1987 the Washington State Supreme Court issued a stay of execution a month before Willie Mak's scheduled execution, but on May 2, 1988 the state Supreme Court let Mak's murder conviction stand. However, then on November 10, 1988 Willie Mak's execution was delayed indefinitely by a federal judge.

On January 8, 1991 U.S. District Judge William Dwyer overturned Willie Mak's death sentence, saying Mak's attorneys failed to present evidence on their client's background that could have saved his life. On July 16, 1992 The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate Mak's death sentence.

On November 9, 1994 a King County Superior Court judge denied Mak's bid for a new trial but allowed prosecutors to hold a new sentencing hearing.

On February 15, 2002, a King County Superior Court judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 2002.

On April 29, 2002 a King County Superior Court judge ruled that Mak will not face the death penalty because the 1983 jury wasn't asked to determine how much of a role he had in the crime.

On September 6, 2006, a parole board met to determine whether Tony Ng should receive parole on his 12th robbery term. If given parole, he would begin serving his 13th term, and be eligible for parole and potentially freed in 2010. Both former King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and former Seattle Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons asked the parole board to deny parole on the 12th count. Relatives who came to the hearing expressed outrage that they were not made aware of previous parole hearings and that Tony Ng was so close to possible release because of it.

 
 

Wah Mee Massacre

HistoryLink.org

On February 18, 1983, three armed, young Chinese American men enter the historic Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle’s Chinatown. They walk away with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, leaving 14 people for dead. One of the victims survives and testifies during what were arguably the three highest-profile trials Seattle has ever seen.

The Wah Mee was a historic speakeasy and gambling club that dated back to the early 1920s. The club, a romantic, classy enclave patronized mainly by semi-affluent restaurant owners and business people in the Chinese community, hosted some of the highest-stakes gambling that could be found in Seattle and, for that matter, in the entire Pacific Northwest.

Winners went home with tens of thousands of dollars after a single night of gambling. Beat cops supplemented their income by tolerating (for a price) illegal gambling in Chinatown. Police allowed the exclusive, Chinese-only members of the Wah Mee Club to preserve an integral part of their history -- gambling -- while also profiting police officers.

In early 1983, a young, 22-year-old Chinese American immigrant named Willie Mak racked up a several thousand-dollar gambling debt with one of the gambling clubs where he worked. In an effort to clear his debts, Mak singled out the wealthy Wah Mee as the target for a heist-and-killing like no other in Seattle.

Mak enlisted the help of his old high school classmate, Benjamin Ng. Ng's extensive criminal record dated back to his years as a juvenile. Mak also enlisted the help of Tony Ng (no relation to Benjamin Ng) -- a shy, quiet, reserved 24-year-old Chinese American immigrant who worked at his parents’ restaurant in North Seattle.

Shortly before midnight on February 18, 1983, the three young men entered the Wah Mee Club. They hog-tied and robbed 14 victims before opening fire.

One of the victims survived. He freed himself from the nylon cords and staggered out of the club to find help. The survivor, Wai Chin, a 62-year-old dealer of Pai Kau, a gambling game played with Chinese dominoes, identified Willie Mak, Benjamin Ng, and Tony Ng as perpetrators of the massacre.

Within hours of the murders, Willie Mak and Benjamin Ng were apprehended. Tony Ng fled the country, hiding out for nearly two years in the Chinatown in Calgary, Alberta. Ng was eventually extradited to the United States, where he stood trial on several counts of aggravated murder and robbery.

Willie Mak initially received the death penalty, but his sentence was later reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Benjamin Ng also received a life sentence.

Tony Ng did not face the death penalty due to a clause in his extradition from Canada to the United States. During his trial, Tony Ng’s attorneys argued that their client did not open fire at the Club and that Mak had forced him to participate in the crime. Thus, jurors considered duress as a factor in their decision. They found him guilty of robbery-and-assault -- not murder. Ng continues to appeal his case, arguing that if jurors acquitted him of murder because of the “duress factor,” they should have acquitted him of robbery-and-assault, also due to the “duress factor.”

The 1983 mass-murder was aptly named the “Wah Mee Massacre.” The Club is officially dead. Its entrance doors have been padlocked and tagged with graffiti. Still, what happened at the Club is a brutally horrific piece of Pacific Northwest history.

 
 

23 years haven't erased grief caused by Wah Mee Massacre

By Natalie Singer - The Seattle Times

Thursday, September 7, 2006

The man in the neat blue sport coat walked slowly into the room, his head held high, mouth set in a firm line.

Behind the microphone minutes later, he crumbled.

Through tears, Jason Loui, 38, told how he was a sophomore in high school when his stepfather was gunned down inside Seattle's Wah Mee social club. That bloody day 23 years ago hijacked Loui's life, transforming a carefree teen into the "man of the house" and later into a husband and father struggling to suppress the dark memories of the past.

"I've had to survive," choked Loui. "It's been a long path."

The lives of Loui and other relatives of the Wah Mee Massacre victims unfolded Wednesday in a King County Courthouse conference room like the brittle pages of a history book: weddings, births, deaths, holidays, bouts of depression, opportunities seized and missed, and always, the graveside visits.

Before three strangers on a state parole board, they bared themselves: a son who long ago moved away but is still haunted by his hometown; a daughter who shrinks from gunfire on television; a family matriarch longing for her love.

With cracking voices and trembling breaths, the families broke years of silence in hopes of persuading the parole board not to bring Tony Ng, one of the perpetrators of Seattle's deadliest mass shooting, any closer to freedom.

Ng, who was convicted of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon for his role in the 1983 robbery and slaying of 13 victims at the Wah Mee gambling club in the Chinatown International District, was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison for most of the robbery counts.

Under the state's old sentencing guidelines, as Ng completed sentences for each count, he began serving time for the next.

Ng is now serving time for the next-to-last count. This month, the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board is considering granting Ng parole, which would allow him to begin serving time for the final count. He could then be eligible for release from prison in 2010.

The other two assailants, Kwan Fai "Willie" Mak and Benjamin Ng (no relation to Tony Ng), were convicted of multiple counts of murder and are serving life sentences without possibility of parole.

Learning Tony Ng was up for parole was like opening an old wound, relatives of his victims said Wednesday. Scarred by the shock of the crime, media attention and years of trials, appeals and endless intrusions into their personal grief, many have been reluctant to speak about the massacre.

Even among friends and families, the topic is often taboo, witnesses said.

"We want to forget," said Linda Mar, daughter of victims Jean and Moo Min Mar. "We do not want to keep reliving this tragedy."

They also spoke of the larger impact of a crime they say still haunts their community.

Wah Mee was an exclusive gambling and social club with an alleyway entrance and high security. But after Feb. 18, 1983, when three men entered the club, hogtied the 14 occupants — one of whom survived — robbed them and shot each in the head, Wah Mee was often miscast as a seedy gambling den, perpetuating stereotypes that burdened Chinatown residents years after the massacre.

"The perception of Chinatown remains colored," Jeff Lew, son of victim Wing Wong, wrote in a letter to the board.

But it was the telling of their most personal sorrows that brought tears to the faces of those who testified, men and women who trudged into the Seattle courthouse with new gray hairs and old photos of loved ones lost 23 years ago. "I will never be able to consult them on our family history, or benefit from their wisdom, or share the camaraderie of being middle-aged," lamented Tony Chinn, who lost his sister and brother-in-law.

Larry Chin described a father who came to America at 16, worked his way from dishwasher to cook, all the while dreaming of owning his own restaurant — a dream never realized. Instead, Chong Chin found the smallest pleasures where he could, such as in the gambling club where his life ended so violently, his son said.

"That was his chance of achieving material things, his piece of the American pie. His chance to relax after a day at the hot stove," said Larry Chin, who testified via a conference call from Hawaii.

As he talked about his own three children, and the missed opportunity to know their grandfather, Chin began to sob. "I often fantasize on holidays, special events," he confessed, "what it would be like if he was with us."

Chin is so haunted by the memories of the massacre that he has only visited Seattle and the Chinatown International District where he grew up three times in the past 20 years.

King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and former Seattle Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons both urged the board not to grant parole, saying the crime was one of the worst they'd ever seen. "It's almost surreal that we're talking about the possibility that sometime soon" Ng could walk free, Maleng said.

Under modern sentencing laws, Ng would serve about 80 years for the same crimes, and the board should aim for a similar sentence, Maleng advised.

More than a dozen family members attended the hearing Wednesday. Some declined to speak publicly, choosing instead to talk privately to the board. Others sent letters.

Many expressed anger that they weren't informed when Ng had been paroled, though not released, after completing earlier sentences. They told the board that they were never contacted each time Ng completed serving time for one count and began serving time on the next, effectively coming closer to possible release.

"I find it appalling," wrote Lew. "Recall the gravity and heinous nature of what occurred."

The board, composed of one member appointed 12 years ago and two appointed in the past two years, apologized to the families for their pain but said it couldn't discuss past parole decisions.

The board will meet with Ng on Sept. 13 and release its decision in four to six weeks, Board Chair Jeralita Costa said.

In requesting a parole denial for Ng, witnesses asked the board members to put themselves in the family members' shoes. Imagine, they said, that a horrific act of violence tore apart their neighborhood, their families, their sense of security.

Then, they urged, picture the perpetrator suddenly walking down the street once again, near your business, your home, your children.

"Everyone is given the opportunity to make choices, and Tony Ng made the wrong choice," said Hazel Chin, daughter of Chong Chin. "I will never be at peace knowing Tony Ng is back on the streets. I ask you to grant us the justice we deserve."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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