Emotions have been running high in Northern Virginia's Vietnamese community since last month's gang task force raid on the popular Eden Center shopping mall in Falls Church, which resulted in 19 arrests on charges of misdemeanor gambling.
A day after the Aug. 11 raid, police officials announced that they believed the center was the operating grounds for the "Dragon Family" gang, a group allegedly responsible for several shootings, stabbings and incidences of extortion in the area. The task force recovered $1 million in the raid, according to Falls Church Patch.
On Wednesday, charges against four arrested in the raid were dismissed, and one person was acquitted. The remaining defendants have yet to be charged with any felonies or gang-related crime, but that may change soon.
Ray Colgan, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, revealed that illegal gambling charges were only the first of more serious ones to come, according to The Washington Post. The case, he said, was investigated after receiving complaints from some business owners and customers. Colgan has said that he's confident that the ownership of some gambling machines is linked to the gangs.
However, several members of the local Vietnamese community, including several Eden Center business owners, have been vocal about their anger with the task force for acting on what they say is a manufactured issue and unfairly rounding up uninvolved parties. Many also worry that the affair will damage the center's reputation and hurt local businesses as a result. There are also several allegations of policemen harassing business owners and shoppers.
According to The Washington Post:
In Cafe Metro, owner Hung Bui said one particular officer walks in, shines his flashlight in customers’ eyes, and has wrongly ticketed Bui repeatedly for being drunk or “drinking on duty” because his eyes appear glassy, the result of an eye disorder. When Frank Huy Do, a partner at New York Life, went around Eden Center asking about the raid on Sept. 1, he said he was yanked out of Cafe Metro into the parking lot, given a ticket for being drunk in public, handcuffed and thrown in the Arlington County jail, though he hadn’t been drinking.
“It was unbelievable,” Do said. “And we’re in America.”
“I’ve been here more than 20 years,” said Mindy Trang, a restaurant proprietor. “I never heard about any gangs. We never had any problem. The customers are scared. That’s not the right thing to do. We pay tax. We pay everything here.” ...
Thuy Hoang, 60, said she stopped in for a Vietnamese coffee on the afternoon of Aug. 11, while her husband waited in the car. She was detained for more than an hour, given a full body search, and then charged with illegal gambling.
With more trials coming, the increased tension between residents and police has raised concern. Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh, according to the Post, said that he and his staff are willing to meet with the Vietnamese community and discuss steps to reduce the tension.
Flickr photo by freshedcrackpepper