Bitter Business
Part Three


 
On September 10, 1976, Peter Ng strolled at Jackson and Taylor Streets, tempting fate by being so close to Chinatown. A "large, green American auto" pulled alongside. A Chinese guy hung out the window with a question: "Hey, who you hang around with?" Hard-boiled Peter gave him scarcely a glance, but deigned to reply: "No one." A loud guffaw and an interjection: "Bullshit!" Whereupon, the nasty fellow shot "the Egg" in the leg.
Policeman Gary Manini interviewed the Egg at Mission Emergency a short while thereafter, where he had been brought by an unidentified friend. The boy told Manini as much as he ever told anybody anything when approached by the law, which was not much, or very little, and usually nothing at all. This time, however, he did advise the officer that he wished first to consult "with my mother," only God knows why, before making a statement.
The Egg knew perfectly well it was a Wah Ching who had shot him from the light green Chevy Impala, but he described him only as a Chinese male between 16 and 18 years old. He didn't need the police to help him get bosau.
The gang kids had a sixth sense that told them when they were confronted by a rival, even if they didn't know him personally. In the same way, they could always spot a kindred soul.
Gan Wah Woo arrived on the San Francisco scene from Hong Kong in 1976. The Joe Boys at Galileo, numbering Stuart and Tom among them, instantaneously admired the swimming dragon's style. He admired them in return, and quickly became such a friend to Melvin that Mark Chan would define their intimacy as "Melvin buys a white hat; Gan Wah buys a white hat."
But the renowned Hotdog Louie, running into Gan Wah on the street, took exception to his presence in the New World and beat him up so severely that Gan Wah vomited blood. Considering himself an independent entity, but strictly "a goddamned W.C." to any of the kids in the other gangs, Hotdog had colored himself red, as usual, and became, for the Tom Yu bunch, a target on the move.
It was inevitable that events like these would lead the Tom Yu faction into open warfare.
On the evening of September 24, 1976, Peter Cheung was driving in his car around Chinatown with passengers Melvin, Tom, and George Wong. George was an up-and-coming member of the Tom Yu faction. They spotted a Wah Ching, Frankie Huey, who took a shot at them. He missed both them and the car. This was at Kearny and Jackson, a block and a half away from Mr. Ng's won-ton cafe, but the boys were not in the mood for noodles that night. They now had a taste for blood because the Wah Ching "tooken [sic] a shot at us."
Returning in a white heat to the house on Amherst, the Joe Boys checked the arsenal and discovered they had only three handguns in stock. They loaded up the .25-caliber, the .38-caliber, and the .380.
Back in Chinatown, they stopped at the Paradise Club at Kearny and Columbus, a block away from the shooting scene of an hour or so before. They thought Frankie might be there, and planned to return his favor. They went inside, but he wasn't there, so they tried the Jade Palace, another Wah Ching hangout about two blocks away on Broadway. Only George took a gun in there; they left the others in the car because there are usually several policemen along Broadway.
In violation of a parole condition that forbade him entry to The City, Hotdog sat at the bar with a few Wah Ching, but without Frankie. The four Joe Boys returned to the street for a quick powwow. They decided that Peter, Melvin and George would go back with guns, while Tom sat behind the wheel of the car in readiness for a quick getaway. This is what they did, and inside the Jade Palace they fired several shots. Hotdog was hit as he tried to escape up the stairs. Also injured were Softhead Kwan, Joe Ho Young and Mario Lee. Much shaken were the other patrons of the Jade Palace, unwitting participants in a sneak preview of the following year's Golden Dragon massacre.
Peter Cheung and George were later arrested and sent to Juvenile Court at the Y.G.C. Peter was convicted and made his first trip to the California Youth Authority in Stockton. Then he won a retrial, and the case was later dropped because the witnesses couldn't be found. Recognized by Hotdog as a basketball teammate at Francisco Junior High and singled-out by Hotdog's photo I.D., George Wong was convicted and sentenced to the California Youth Authority at Stockton. No retrial for him.
On March 12, 1977, Gan Wah was shot in a fracas which began in front of a restaurant on Jackson Street, when his companion, Melvin, was about to open fire on someone with a shotgun, and the target caught on too quickly. Gan Wah's recovery in San Francisco General Hospital was the occasion on which he first met Tim Simmons. The cop suspected then that Gan Wah was the type who couldn't stay out of trouble. He was right. Once, Gan Wah had been chased by Wah Ching at Galileo, along with some of his buddies. One of the W.C.'s pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, which inspired the swimming dragon to shoot first. His bullet missed the W.C. and nearly struck a young girl. Then, during a party at the Civic Center Holiday Inn on 8th Street, he tried to stab Bill Wong, one of the W.C.'s who had attacked Mark Chan's car at Washington High. Gan Wah wounded Bill in the head.
Gang kids often brought bad luck to an otherwise nice party. On April 17, 1977, several members of the Tom Yu faction showed up at a high-school gathering held in a non-member's home on 40th Avenue in the Richmond. There were many kids there who were not associated with the gangs, but being comprised of birds of differing feathers guaranteed no safety to the flock. The party was held in the garage which began to get a bit stuffy after awhile.
So Gan Wah, Halfbreed, Melvin and Egg stepped outside for a smoke and a breath of fresh air. Their ever watchful eyes caught sight of a white station wagon cruising slowly by, then whipping into a U-turn and rolling back toward the house.
The same thought chased through all their minds: Wah Ching! They were ready when shots were fired at them from the station wagon, and fired back. At the sound of battle, Chester, Sai and Peter Cheung went racing to the fray. None of them was hurt, nor were the vanishing Wah Ching.
But an innocent boy, standing inside, fell dead from a bullet that passed through the garage door.
On yet another occasion, Chester went to a grocery store at Clay and Taylor with Henry Lee and Halfbreed. Some W.C.'s stood idly about the corner. As his weary teachers at Galileo knew from writing reports on his endless conversations in class with Stuart, Henry was not a boy to keep his mouth shut. Henry boldly asked the other kids a peremptory question: "What are you looking at?" The unvoiced reply of the gathered Wah Ching struck Chester pretty fast. He hustled Henry and Halfbreed back to his car, with the W.C.'s in close pursuit. One of the pursuers, whipping out a pistol, shot out a tire. Chester, at the wheel, kept on driving, as well he might have.
Henry, although it would never have occurred to him, should long since have been thankful that teachers at Galileo were not wont to carry guns for dealing with problems like him in the manner of Wah Ching. Probably some of the educators wished they had the nerve. None of these kids could ever have passed for a teacher's pet.
Take Halfbreed, for one. Half-Chinese, half-Portuguese Steven "Halfbreed" Lee, not related to Henry, was a cute little guy with an engaging grin and ice-cold eyes. He was caught at Francisco Junior High, with some like-minded types, beating up a fellow student and trying to lop off the kid's fingers with a paper cutter.
They were, all in all, a scary bunch.
There were lots of things happening in late 1976 and early 1977. In two or three shootings in the 600 block of Jackson Street, the perpetrators were always identified as the Tom Yu faction of the Joe Boys. More and more about this particular faction's propensity for violence was coming to the fore. They were beginning to use more sophisticated weaponry such as shotguns and semi-automatic rifles.
The Joe Boys were accused of a shooting in the early part of '77 where two gunmen burst into the Kum Hom Restaurant and started firing indiscriminately into the crowd. This could easily have become a Golden Dragon scene. About 20 rounds were fired, but only one person was wounded--a Chinese girl in her early 20's, shot in the elbow. Later, it was discovered that she was a girlfriend of Sai Ying Lee's.
 

Home · Part Four

2000 Brockman Morris