Killing in Jenner casts spotlight on ultraviolent syndicates with roots in Long Beach

  • Photo from DMV License photo copy of Vutha Au. CDL info states "Photo date 4/21/06" "Issued 2/22/2007". Vuth Au was in state's witness protection program when he was killed, a prosecutor said. (Press Democrat/ via DMV driver license)

Vutha and Terry Au seemed like ordinary young men, working on their cars, helping neighbors with chores or mowing the lawn outside their family's spacious west Santa Rosa home.

"The boys were always respectful. There was never any drama at the home," said a neighbor of the Au family, who until recently lived across the street from Live Oak Park near Fulton Road.

It came as a shock when Vutha Au, 24, was kidnapped March 2, allegedly by members of an Asian gang, and driven to a secluded beach near Jenner, where he was shot nine times and left dead.

Authorities believe he was killed so that he couldn't testify on behalf of his brother, 22-year-old Terry Au, who has alleged he also was kidnapped and tortured by the same gang -- the Asian Boyz -- when he decided to stop running drugs for them.

The brothers' story offers a revealing look into Asian gangs, which have operated below the radar in Sonoma County, generating far fewer headlines and concern than their Latino counterparts.

Vutha Au's alleged execution raises that profile. Even those who have become numb to gang violence were shocked by such viciousness, which law enforcement officials say is a hallmark of Asian gangs entrenched in communities nationwide.

"These guys are ruthless. They're killers. They're not to be taken lightly," Long Beach Police Det. Joe Pirooz said.

Long Beach is considered the birthplace of California's Asian gangs, which rose out of that city's large southeast Asian population in the early 1980s and spread across the state.

The state Department of Justice now estimates there are 500 Asian gangs in California.

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