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Thursday, March 1, 2012

San Jose police: Kidnapper assaulted 11-year-old girl before cop killed him

1-23-2012 California:

San Jose police say the 42-year-old man who abducted an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint sexually assaulted her during the nearly 11-hour ordeal before an officer killed him in a narrow stairwell.

Police also confirmed Tri Truong Le was firing blanks from a replica 9 mm Beretta-lookalike pistol during the fatal confrontation at his Pistachio Road townhome on Friday afternoon.

Police Chief Chris Moore, in a Monday news conference, lauded the "extraordinary" efforts of more than 100 police officers who rescued the girl, and lamented the "disturbing trend of violent domestic violence in our city and county."

The Mercury News is no longer identifying the girl because she was a victim of assault.

Acting Deputy Chief Edgardo Garcia said before Le was shot, he had an EKOL Firat pistol in his right hand and a large kitchen knife in his left. Le had the girl, the daughter of his ex-girlfriend, wrapped in a cross hold. And as he stood with the girl as a human shield near his back window, police said Le fired his gun.

When officers heard the shots, they raced into hostage-rescue mode and rushed through the front door, Garcia said. Officer Mauricio Jimenez, a SWAT officer, fired two rounds at Le, the first hitting Le in the left arm. Le then tried to use the girl as a shield. Jimenez fired a second time, hitting Le in the head, killing him.

"It's great that we saved her life, but the bad part is she was assaulted right before we rescued her," police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer said after the news conference. "It's almost impossible to make a precision shot on a suspect without harming the hostage and under heavy fire at point blank range. The officer is a hero. She owes her life to that team and Officer Jimenez."

Police said they could not answer why Le would shoot blanks in the face of heavily armed officers.

The sexual assault was discovered at a hospital after the girl was rescued and taken there. Because she was traumatized, police did not thoroughly interview her about the kidnapping. They planned to do that later Monday. The girl's uncle asked Monday morning that the family's privacy be respected.

Court records show that Le has a criminal history in Santa Clara County dating back to at least 1998. He's been convicted at least three times for DUI; the last time was in 2008, when he was so drunk, police noted, that he slurred and stumbled and stated out loud that he had also taken the drug ecstasy.

Three years before that, Le was charged with violating a domestic violence protective order. In February 2005, an ex-girlfriend called police to say that Le had threatened to kill her and her new boyfriend after she broke up with him. "How could you do this to me?" she recounted what Le said to her, according to the police report. Then he scratched and choked her, records state, and threatened he'd go get his gun and come for her.

Le also made threats about weapons before Friday's kidnapping and shooting, police said.

About 1:20 a.m. Friday, Le barged into the girl's home on Taffy Court, fired the replica pistol several times, and took off with the 11-year-old, prompting a statewide Amber Alert.

Texts on Friday between Le and the girl's mother, whom he had been dating for four years and sometimes lived with, showed that he threatened to use his gun and "he would be ready" for police, Garcia said.

Police at the time did not know for sure that Le's pistol was shooting blanks.

"Had he been shooting a real gun, a lot more officers would have been injured," Garcia said.

The girl's mother told police that Le physically abused her. But she never reported the abuse. She broke up with him a short while ago.

Patricia Bennett, a coordinator at Next Door Solutions anti-domestic violence program, told reporters at the news conference that she never wants to blame women for the violent behavior of their abusers. But she continually tries to educate those who want to leave, to do so quietly, without announcing a breakup until you can talk to a domestic violence expert to draw up a safety plan.

All of last year's domestic violence homicides in Santa Clara County resulted during some stage of breakup. But Bennett said that "90 to 99 percent" of the time, victims who get expert advice on leaving an abuser, before going public with that plan, don't end up dying. She said domestic violence advocates often will help a victim get a restraining order, help them find circles of support and sometimes move them into hiding, to try to wrest power away from an abuser.

"We just try to help them be as safe as they can when they make that move at such a high-risk time," Bennett said. ..Source.. by Lisa Fernandez

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