Cop shoots, kills man wielding meat cleaver

By Staff Report

A tense confrontation between a landlord and a tenant wielding a meat cleaver ended with a… A tense confrontation between a landlord and a tenant wielding a meat cleaver ended with a fatal shooting Friday afternoon.

A police officer shot the tenant, Nang T. Nguyen, in the chest just after 3 p.m. at the corner of Bates and Atwood streets. Police then closed the intersection for most of the afternoon.

Nguyen, known as “Ricky” to his friends, had a history of mental instability, his long-time landlord, Chong Won Kim, said.

Kim, who owns the apartment Nguyen rented above Kim’s Oriental Grocery at 366 Atwood St., told The Post-Gazette he was working in his store when Nguyen came down from his third-floor apartment holding the meat cleaver and mumbling with a vacant look in his eyes.

Nguyen’s behavior alarmed Kim and prompted him to run outside and call the police.

When an officer arrived, Nguyen was holding the knife outside Mad Mex restaurant and bar.

Dennis Raspunti Sr., who watched the scene unfold from his porch at 347 Atwood St., said that the officer repeatedly asked Nguyen to drop the knife.

When he refused, the officer shot him once in the chest.

For hours after, Nguyen lay handcuffed and dead on the sidewalk footsteps away from the entry to Mad Mex. Bystanders watched from the street and from porches surrounding the intersection.

City police from Zone 4, the unit from which the responding officer hailed, could not be reached to comment on the officer’s actions. But Ron Bennett, the community relations officer for Pitt police, said that he felt the officer followed protocol.

“We don’t aim at elbows and arms and all that,” Bennett said of standard police protocol.

“We purposely don’t. If we feel our lives are in danger, we shoot at the best target. Stopping the person means shooting at the center mass, and that is what the officer did.”

Still, some feel that killing Nguyen was extreme.

Emil Lester, formerly the owner of City Cafe on Market Square Downtown, said he came to know Nguyen through another frequent customer, who often cared for Nguyen and received some of Nguyen’s Vietnamese cooking in return.

“I had a cafe Downtown, and my place was the kind of place where people went to talk,” Lester said. It was in talking with his frequent customer, whom he called “Charles,” that Lester learned of Nguyen and became familiar with his poor mental health and financial problems.

Considering all of Nguyen’s obstacles, Lester believes that the policeman didn’t need to shoot to kill.

“Ricky was 100 pounds. The policeman could’ve puffed and he would’ve fallen over,” he said.