When Gan Wah volunteered himself as an informant on September 27, 1977, a fraction more than three months before Stuart began his talks with Foley and McKenna, the name "Stuart Lin" had come up right away. He and Stuart had become closer friends since their arrest together on September 20th for defrauding the Superior Palace Restaurant.
At that time, Gan Wah was as likely a suspect in the Golden Dragon case as anyone else. He belonged to the Joe Boys, had been a shooting target for the Wah Ching, and carried a reputation for violence.
Gan Wah first had to establish an alibi for his own whereabouts during the early hours of September 4th. He claimed that he spent the evening with friends, Brian Kwan and Victor Pedrucco, at the Korea House Bar in Japantown. Joined by two other Joe Boys and a couple of girls before the bar closed at 2 A.M., they all adjourned to Sambo's Restaurant on Lombard until around 4, then Gan Wah went with Victor and Brian to Brian's apartment. He heard about the Golden Dragon on the news.
His alibi checked out.
Following up Gan Wah's leads on the Golden Dragon was more difficult. No one could be accused or arrested merely on his say-so, even if the star informant were canting nothing but the truth. Ways had to be found to authenticate his information evidentially. The investigation sniffed doggedly along every trail he pointed out through the tangled forest of probabilities and possibilities.
Then, Hugh Levine picked up a scent that brought cries of "tallyho."
Gan Wah had implicated 17-year-old Peter Ng. No vote was necessary for police to award him first place on the list; they already wanted the kid before Gan Wah mentioned him. His nickname, "Pei Don," meant "the Hundred-Year Egg," a euphemism for the preserved eggs considered a great delicacy by the Chinese, although rarely by anyone else. Perhaps Peter Ng's fellow Joe Boys thought so highly of his talents as a gangster that they bestowed it upon him in admiration, or maybe he fancied pei don, or possibly it represented a private joke. Notwithstanding the Joe Boys considering him "a good egg," the police deemed him a rotten one.
Police never took to this colorful moniker as they did to "Hotdog," "Perch," "Fat," "Popeye," and numerous others. To them, he would remain the humorless "Peter Ng," to avoid confusion with Peter Cheung (pronounced "chung"), another active Joe Boy. Whereas one runs across a few sympathetic adjectives in reference to the second Peter (Cheung), the first Peter (Ng) earned a plethora of modifiers never deviating from the ideas expressed by "cold," "hard," and "tough."
Following a restaurant holdup on May 4, 1977, a warrant of arrest had been issued for Peter Ng on a charge of armed robbery. He took off, probably to Sacramento at one time and to Los Angeles at another, and was said by Gan Wah to have definitely gone to L.A. after the Golden Dragon. The Joe Boys were active in Southern California. They often provided cover for fugitives from the north--and vice versa. Being a traveling man, Peter Ng had therefore never showed up in court to answer the charge. Having a history of violent acts was good reason for not facing the judge.
Now that his name had come up in Gan Wah's interviews, the Gang Task Force set out afresh to find him and make the robbery arrest. Gan Wah promised to help. He told them he had been invited to drive to L.A. during the Thanksgiving holidays with Patrick Huey (older brother of murdered Felix) and Eugene Fong (younger brother of the famous Joe). He thought they might try to contact Peter Ng while there. But he came back reporting negative results.
Things looked dismal, but the overcast lifted on December 2, 1977. Michael "Hotdog" Louie was arrested for the death of Kit Mun Louie and confined to City Prison, pending trial.
Long before this, Hugh Levine had committed to memory the extensive list of Chinese names and faces decorating the walls of the Gang Task Force. He had become very active in the investigation and had started to concentrate on Peter Ng. When Hotdog entered the picture, the canny Assistant District Attorney sent up the cry of "Mush, you huskies!" around the office.
Levine had conceived of a plan of action which he hoped would constitute an entr'acte between the beginning of the Golden Dragon drama and its conclusion. He intended to stage this interlude with two stars. One of these personae now sat captive in the municipal cage --Hotdog. The other, if he could only be found, was Peter Ng. Then the curtain could rise.
Hotdog was charged with first-degree murder. He was represented by a deputy defender, Harvey Goldfine. Hugh Levine handled the prosecution because he was beginning to get everything connected with Chinatown. In reality, Levine never expected to convict Hotdog on the murder charge because there was no premeditation, deliberation, or malice aforethought. The killing had been a reckless accident. But Michael Louie was a big fish in the Chinatown gang world. It was worth negotiating the disposition on the value of the case.
The prosecution planned to offer him a plea to involuntary manslaughter, which then carried a life sentence, but with parole eligibility after a short time. A preliminary hearing was held, at the conclusion of which Hotdog pled guilty. On tape, after the hearing, he confessed everything to the Gang Task Force, as did Dard Wei Chen and Samson Tso. The younger two, as juveniles, were sent to the California Youth Authority. Hotdog served two years in state prison.
On Monday, December 12th, Tim Simmons was dispatched to City Prison (two floors above the Gang Task Force at the Hall of Justice) to interview him. The young gangster had already pled guilty and was waiting for sentencing. Simmons carried a portfolio of 16 photographs.
In a previous meeting, following his arrest, Hotdog had stated to Simmons, "I think I can identify one of the three suspects I saw shooting weapons inside the Golden Dragon."
Yes, Hotdog himself was a survivor of the carnage in the restaurant that fateful night. He was the gang kid whom John McKenna thought he recognized in the young man who lay sprawled in death at the foot of the pillar entwined by a golden dragon. It was he whom McKenna sighted on the mezzanine and suspected at once to be the primary target of the attack.
It was Hotdog who drawled to the detective when asked if he had recognized any of the shooters: "Well, maybe I did, but I ain't sure. I don't wanna say nothin', though, 'cuz maybe I might be wrong." McKenna had concluded that Hotdog could be saving that information for a more opportune moment in the future, when it might prove to be a bargaining point on which to build a deal if he were arrested for anything from extortion to homicide.
That moment had come, and with it came a surprise, when measured against the standard gang kid's mentality. To the eternal credit of Michael Louie's character, however dark the other elements it harbored, he begged no mercy in the Kit Mun Louie case as an exchange for his information about the Golden Dragon massacre. His sentence probably would have been lightened thereby, but he chose not to make a connection between the two. One could conclude that the demise of the Hawaii-born beauty, who so loved pretty jewelry that death let her keep a jade bracelet, tore into Michael's soul as deeply as his bullet had penetrated her brain. Was there something rare between this boy and that young girl, something not realized until too late? Or was his close call in the Golden Dragon so foreboding that it left too bitter an aftertaste of hell for him to dare use his knowledge to gain anything but earthly revenge against its perpetrators? Only tough little Hotdog knew.
In City Prison--three months, one week, and one day after the Golden Dragon, and more than a year after he had shot Kit Mun Louie on August 27, 1976--Hotdog Louie pointed without hesitation to a picture of Peter Ng in Simmons' portfolio. "This appears to be the person who had a shotgun," he said (in words reported later by Simmons). "He had a stocking mask over his head. He was wearing white pants and a Chinese-style jacket...I think I could recognize him if I saw him again."
Now there were two photographic identifications of Peter Ng, one related to the Golden Dragon and another to his armed robbery of the Kay Heung Restaurant the preceding May. The other I.D. had come about when officers Rich Moses and Larry Ryan responded to the scene immediately after the incident. Moses and Ryan would be selected by John McKenna for membership in the Gang Task Force upon its formation the following September, primarily for their expertise in dealing with Chinese gang kids in the Richmond. At the Kay Heung, the two showed a spread of 11 mug shots to victim Francis Luke. Luke picked out Peter Ng as the suspect at once.
Both Hotdog and Luke were willing to try for a live I.D.
One star and a minor character were now set for their roles in Levine's entr'acte in the Golden Dragon play. If Luke identified Peter Ng as the perpetrator of the armed robbery, the Task Force could try for a conviction on that charge and put the boy away where they knew they could find him. If Hotdog identified him, other survivors of the massacre might, too. The case could be worked from there. With one shooter identified, the investigation would be well underway toward its goal of prosecution. From studying the statements of witnesses, Levine knew that the upper- level shooters were well described.
But the second star remained at large. If only they could find Peter Ng....