Shortly after the reported August conversation, of course, the Golden Dragon massacre occurred and, a week later, the shooting of Mark Chan and homicide of Mouse Lee out in the Avenues.
The October-20th informant also went on to say that he knew of a second conversation between Gary and friend at the Bench and Bar Club in Oakland a couple of weeks AFTER the above two incidents. That time, Gary alluded to his earlier statement about "something big" and acknowledged that he and Wayne had to cool it because the heat was really on. Then Gary added: "Those kids were stupid. That thing didn't go as planned!" Next Gary said that Wayne had taken charge of hiding out the perpetrators, one in Hawaii, and another in Los Angeles, and another two at unrevealed locales.
What Gary said about Wayne was only hearsay, not court-usable evidence, so the Task Force declined to take any action against Wayne and Gary on the basis of the informer's reports. They needed hard proof and knew all too well that if Wayne and Gary were ever really in cahoots on such things as those overheard from Gary's lips, it would have proved only one thing--that Wayne was guilty of extremely bad judgment in the man he chose for his partner. Gary talked too much.
Besides, the Gang Task Force had already received other tips about Wayne's activities that smacked more of the evidential than the fanciful. As for his trip to Hawaii, the cops eventually concluded he had probably gone to the islands strictly for pleasure.
On September 23rd, less than three weeks after the Golden Dragon, John McKenna and Simmons had met with an informant who passed on some interesting bits of information. He had asked Wayne Yee about the Golden Dragon, and Wayne worriedly commented: "What a sloppy job! Those guys sure are giving me trouble." There was nothing especially incriminating about that; in Wayne's professional position, anybody in his territory who committed such a crime would naturally be a helluva nuisance, if for nothing more than Wayne's having to constantly make public defense of Chinatown's youth.
The second, and more interesting bit, had to do with a visit the informant had once made with Wayne to an illicit gun dealer's establishment. During the same conversation on September 23rd, the informant had wondered aloud to Wayne about the possibility of "purchasing a gun from the Mexican guy who runs the tattoo shop." Wayne threw up his hands. "The cops are really after my ass, and the heat is on," he said. "I have to be careful."
After the informant revealed this information, McKenna and Simmons decided they wanted to see the tattoo shop for themselves. They drove out with him to the Mission District and beyond, to where it meets Daly City at the top of a hill a few blocks off Route 280. The Mission District is home to a diversity of ethnic groups, but the predominant strain is Latino.
They found the shop and observed it from afar. It seemed to be prospering under the ownership and management of "the Mexican guy," tattoo artist Bert Rodriguez. It was Bert, of course, to whom Wayne confided in December that he'd met a guy named Sam who was conferring with him on a "big deal" in Hawaii.
Despite the fact that it had not borne fruit thus far, illegal gun traffic became the likeliest tree to which the Gang Task Force could hope to nail Wayne Yee. A lesser case against him would perhaps provide the impetus for a greater. In pursuing the smaller serpent along its sinuous path, they might well find themselves in the very dragon's lair. Now they needed bait to lure the worm into its first turn.
Enter Cornell "Sam" Lee.
Through an Asian contact in Chinatown, an initial meeting was arranged between Wayne and "Sam Lee" at the Kuo Wah Restaurant on Clement Street in the Richmond on December 14, 1977.
The day came and, with it, torrential rain. At 6:30 that evening, the Task Force's Leon Crouere and A.T.F.'s Ted Royster took up positions in a stake-out car on 10th Avenue, facing the restaurant to the right and down Clement. A.T.F.'s Jim Smith and the Task Force's Paul Bertsch staked out mid-block on Clement, between 10th and 11th, on the restaurant side. Even from those few feet away, Smith and Bertsch could barely see the door through the waves of rain running down their vehicle's windows.
Braving both the storm and the risk of discovery, they jumped out of the car and scurried inside, where they sat at the bar for half an hour with their eyes glued to the entry. Finally, at 7 o'clock, "Sam" breezed in and, naturally, ignored the agents planted at the bar. As the Asian contact came forward to meet him, Smith and Bertsch resumed their positions in the car parked outside.
At 7:30, "Sam" was observed leaving the Kuo Wah, having apparently accomplished his goal. He walked to his auto, then drove away from the scene. He waited for Smith and Bertsch three blocks away, and there made a brief report, which constituted substantially the following:
"When I arrived, Wayne was already there with another Chinese Youth Alternatives guy named Brian Lee. I seem to have impressed Wayne a lot. He has me pegged for a very important gangster from Hawaii, obviously with a lot of money. He's more than willing to do business with me. I set up a luncheon date with him at my hotel for 11 o'clock the day after tomorrow, Friday, the 16th. I'm staying at the Sheraton at Fisherman's Wharf. This broke the ice, guys. I don't think I need any police coverage for the luncheon. It may take some time, but it looks like a straightforward thing."
Lee was half right. It would take time, but not without a turn or two in a road that in the beginning appeared to run straight on.
The first was a twist that Wayne gave it in early January six weeks before the official celebration of the Chinese New Year. He may have planned to end the Year of the Serpent with a bang, but he didn't get that far.
He did get as far as Sacramento, however, where on January 4, 1978, local police officers Gibbs and Brauntz responded to a call at McDonald's Restaurant on Freeport Boulevard. Someone at McDonald's appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Upon arrival, Gibbs and Brauntz apprehended the subject and placed him under arrest for being under the influence of drugs and possession of drugs. It turned out to be Brian Lee, Wayne's friend who had accompanied him to Hawaii in August to suck up Mai Tais. Without prescription, Brian had a bottle containing 55 Tuenols on his person.
"Where's your vehicle?" asked Brauntz. "It's the one parked next to your patrol car," replied Brian.
Brauntz took a look inside. "Who's the guy asleep in there?" he queried. "A friend," answered Brian tersely.
Brauntz and Gibbs woke up the sleeper, suspecting that he, too, might be under the influence of drugs, and asked him to step out of the car. "What were you doing in there?" asked Brauntz. "I fell asleep waiting for my friend to come out of McDonald's," the sleeper responded. Further questioning revealed that the suspects were from San Francisco and had driven to Sacramento "to attend a meeting." The sleeper then identified himself as Wayne Yee.
"Do you mind if I search your car for guns?" asked Gibbs?" "Sure, go ahead," invited Wayne, and then found himself handcuffed and placed under arrest for having a concealed weapon in the vehicle. Gibbs ran across a Walther .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol in the glove box, with a live round in the chamber and nine more in the clip. The weapon was found to be registered to Robert Huey of San Francisco, the same Joe Boy who had signed "Gary Wong" on the sales slip for the Mark III Commando they bought from Rodney Williams in Bert's tattoo shop.
To judge from most of Wayne's known personal relationships, he associated almost exclusively with Joe Boys. The Hop Sing Boys and the Wah Ching had long known and complained about Wayne and his covert Joe Boy activities concealed behind the self-righteous faade of Chinese Youth Alternatives. None of THEM had ever been offered a job through C.Y.A., a city- and privately-funded organization purporting to serve the ENTIRE Chinese community. That privilege was apparently reserved for Joe Boys and their friends.
Wayne's arrest in Sacramento was no more than a temporary detour in his dealings with "Sam Lee." A month or so afterward, there would be another, with "Sam" uncomfortably in tow this time, but some good news came first.