Won-Ton Bandits
Part One


 
The telephone message on Dan Foley's desk asked him to call "Dean of Boys, Galileo; re: Stuart Pak Lin (Big Cookie); will talk about gangs." It was the record of a call from Lance Logan who worked on patrol at Galileo High School for the Youth Services Bureau.
When Foley got to work at 7 o'clock on the evening of December 18, 1977, and read the note, Galileo High School and all the other public schools in San Francisco had already adjourned for the Christmas holidays. Immediately, he thought of the Lin brothers, members of the Dai Ben (Big Cookie) Gang, who had been on the scene December 3rd when several Wah Ching took pot shots at the Dai Ben boys they found snacking at the Jack-in-the-Box Restaurant on Lombard Street. Foley stuck the note in his folder and decided to contact the dean, Richard Duvall, as soon as school started in January.
January 5, 1978, was a rainy, dreary day made bright for Foley only because it was his birthday. He had to pull the day watch at the Gang Task Force. It seemed an ideal time to follow up on the pre-Christmas note. He drove over to Galileo and parked on Van Ness Avenue at Bay Street alongside the school's main building, an antiquated structure sprawling over the breadth and length of a city block a corner away from Ghirardelli Square, one of the most tourist-frequented areas of the city.
Dick Duvall, Dean of Boys, welcomed him with the information that Stuart Lin had a girlfriend with whom the boy spent "more time than at school." Stuart skipped classes an average of once a week. His grades were either marginal or failing. He rarely, if ever, turned in homework. His teachers penciled his Student Reference Forms with such comments as "He doesn't want to flunk my class, does he?" and "What's the situation with him?"
One female instructor, despite having caught Stuart smoking on campus, despite having castigated him for constant conversation in class "with his friend Henry in Chinese," despite having preached to him endlessly ("A day doesn't go by where I don't talk to him...about poor attendance, attitude and behavior."), and despite having accused him of coming "ill-prepared" to school--this long-suffering and remarkable educator, with a stroke of insight that transcended all the evidence before her eyes, judged him to be "a bright young man (who) is not a productive student."
So this "bright young man" who was not a good student had apparently decided to become productive for the Gang Task Force. He wished to talk to someone about the gangs.
Stuart, as luck would have it for Foley, was in attendance that day. The policeman had to wait for a class break which took place half an hour later, when Dean Duvall retrieved the boy from the croded hallways and brought him to Foley in the teachers' lounge area of the school cafeteria.
The 17-year-old was a big surprise. At 5-foot-9, he stood nearly as tall as Foley and had a husky build, weighing in at 150 pounds. Whereas kids in the gangs tried to be tough, Stuart seemed humble. His full-moon face bore a sad expression. When he walked in, he kept his head down. He struck Foley as painfully shy.
The cop invited the ungainly kid to sit across from him at the table. Stuart did so. His head remained lowered, a picture of Confucian respect for the elder man.
"I'm sorry I didn't get here before Christmas, but school was out for the holidays by the time I got the message," apologized Foley. "What's the problem, Stuart?"
Shyly, Stuart raised his head a fraction and said, in a thick Cantonese accent, that he had been hassled on the bus just before school that day in December. Some gang kids pulled him off the bus and accused him of belonging to a rival gang.
"My note said something about 'Big Cookie,' as I recall," commented Foley. "Do you have anything to do with the Dai Ben Gang, Stuart?"
The boy denied association with the James "Dai Ben" ("Big Cookie") Chang group. Foley asked him if he had ever belonged to any gang or had associated with any gangsters.
"Yeah," he replied, and started naming off names that were familiar to the Gang Task Force. They were all Joe Boys.
Foley played dumb. "Geez, I don't know all these guys, but I have some pictures down at the office. I'd like you to come down there with me, and I'll show 'em to you."
Stuart agreed to go.
The cop figured Stuart would not, however, want to be seen leaving the school with him. "Meet me around the corner," he suggested.
"Naw, I just go out with you. There shouldn't be no problem." Either totally fearless, fightfully stupid or incredibly naive--given the condition of gang kids and informers on every side who could identify Foley as a policeman--Stuart just walked out of the school with him and got into a car any number of trigger-happy kids on the street knew on sight as the unmarked property of the San Francisco Police Department.
On the way to the Hall of Justice, Foley set him at ease by asking about his problems at school--the bad grades, the bad behavior, the missing homework, the cut classes. "I want to go to another school," Stuart confided. "I like to go to John O'Connell Trade School and learn a trade. My father, he run sewing machines at his shop. I want to run sewing machines like my father do." Foley perceived that the kid might be mechanically inclined rather than academically so.
Foley took him to the Gang Task Force office at the Hall of Justice. John McKenna joined them in the interview room.
"Who introduced you to the Joe Boys you know?" asked McKenna.
"My friend, Henry Lee," Stuart replied. He then identified a picture of Henry. "Yeah, that's him."
They showed him a whole book full of mug shots. He picked out people and then talked freely about them. Most surprisingly, he talked about his involvement with them.
He identified Tom Yu as a leader who taught them how to fight in gang war. Then he admitted, after direct questioning by McKenna and Foley, that he himself had been involved in a robbery with a boy in another photograph, David Yu, at the Peacock Restaurant on Jackson Street in the spring of 1977. He said David went in with a .22 about midnight, while Stuart stood outside. He came back with $40. Afterward, they dined sumptuously at a noodle restaurant and went home.
He next recalled a scenario on Great Highway at the beach, where rival gangs had developed the habit of driving along and shooting at the first enemy in sight. One day, he had been riding out there in the back seat of a car when the battle cry went up: "Wah Ching! Goddam Wah Ching!" Tom Yu had sighted a green Cutlass two-door driven by the infamous (to Joe Boys) Leon "Mama Boy" Chin.
Tom shoved a pistol into Stuart's hands, commanding him to "Shoot the motherfucker!" Desperately anxious to follow orders and to prove himself a proper gangster, Stuart fumbled with the weapon, took as careful aim as he could in the speeding car, and then wondered how in hell to shoot it. He'd never seen one like it before.
"The safety, man, the safety!" cried Tom in equal desperation. Stuart pushed the cylinder release by mistake. The cylinder opened up, and the bullets fell out!
"You dumb shit!" Tom yelled as Mama Boy got away.
Stuart reported there were other occasions when his group of Joe Boys tried to kill Mama Boy. The first shooting occurred near David Yu's house. That time, Mama Boy's Cutlass took one in the trunk. Next, they pitched battle at a Union 76 gas station on Pacific Avenue. "Right on, right on!" Henry Lee had cried in the excitement of the onslaught, but Mama Boy left them in a cloud of dust.
Foley recalled that particular incident because he and Fred Mollat were patrolling around Galileo High School a couple of months before when a call came over their radio, "Shots fired at Pacific and Polk!" Responding, they found broken windshield glass all over the place. They questioned the Chinese employees at the gas station. "We ain't seen nothin'," was the wall-of-silence consensus until one of them admitted, "Maybe I did hear what sounded like firecrackers, and then I seen this car take off." That was the extent of the information allowed to Foley and Mollat.
Stuart said the third attempt involved Henry Lee and Steven "Halfbreed" Lee (unrelated to Henry, and street-named in honor of his half-Chinese, half-Latino bloodline) and Robert Lui. They fired a gun into the front window of Mama Boy's house. It would seem that Mama Boy led a charmed life. The hex fell only on his property.
The cops asked Stuart why the Joe Boys were so anxious to waste Mama Boy. "The younger guys want to kill the younger guys in the opposition," he explained. "The older Joe Boys want to kill the older enemies, like Hotdog Louie."
On another occasion near Chinese New Year 1977, at the beach where Fulton Street ends at Great Highway, they observed a Wah Ching auto close at hand. The Joe Boys--fraternal twins Tom and Dana Yu, Stuart, Halfbreed and Robert Lui, all sitting in a green Firebirg with Dana at the wheel--perked up. In unison, the twins cried, "There they are!" Pursuit began. Dana passed a gun to Robert who hung out the window, at the ready, but the Wah Ching's Chevy Malibu got away.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris