Family cut down by gunfire in Montavilla

Why this young Vietnamese couple and their brother were gunned down may never be known, after the main suspect was killed by police near Dallas, Texas …

For several blocks on either side of SE 85th Avenue in Montavilla, SE Division Street is closed down, as officers begin a double-homicide investigation.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Dozens of Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct District cars, soon followed by Homicide Bureau detectives, filled SE Division Street at 85th Avenue on April 10, when a “shots fired” call was broadcast at 10:02 p.m. that evening.

Witnesses said they heard as many as two dozen shots fired in a short period of time.

The focus of a police investigation is on this family-owned four-plex.

At the scene, some reporters speculated that it could be a gang shooting, and others said perhaps is was a troubled domestic situation that went badly awry – as all stood behind police lines, looking at a non-assuming four-plex.

“Officers located three gunshot victims inside a residence,” reported PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson. “Two are deceased, and a third has been taken to a Portland hospital with life-threatening injuries.”

The PPB “Mobile Precinct” serves as command headquarters for what turns into a double homicide investigation.

Officers also found a 13-week-old baby girl in the residence and took her to safety. “The infant was not harmed in the shooting, and was placed in the care of her grandparents,” Simpson said.

Their family provided these photos of Toan “Andrew” Pham, Susie Pham (holding infant daughter), and Dat “Gary” Pham.

The two adult homicide victims were later identified as 33-year-old Dat “Gary” Pham and 41-year-old Susie Pham (Sut-Leng Chang). The Oregon State Medical Examiner concluded they both died from gunshot wounds to the head.

Clinging to life in the hospital was Gary’s brother, 35-year-old Toan “Andrew” Pham – the owner of the four-plex, according to Multnomah County records.

Police release this photo of the suspected gunman, 26-year-old Colby James Robinson. PPB provided photo

Three days after the murders, Homicide Detectives said they’d identified as a suspect, and were looking for, 26-year-old Colby James Robinson. But Robinson wasn’t in town – it turned out he’d hastily departed Portland for the Dallas, Texas, area.

On the morning of April 14, Robinson evaded officers serving an arrest warrant for two counts of Aggravated Murder, and eluded capture, in DeSoto, Texas, a southern suburb Dallas.

Officers and detectives begin gathering evidence at the scene of the murders.

Later that evening, an alert convenience store clerk near DeSoto, who said he’d seen Robinson’s “wanted” picture on the news, called police to report seeing the suspect in his store.

According to the Dallas Police Department, at 9:29 p.m. (Central time) that evening, Desoto Police Department officers were involved in a vehicle pursuit involving Robinson.

Robinson bailed out of his vehicle and ran into a neighborhood. Desoto Police officers confronted Robinson, and an officer-involved shooting occurred. Robinson was shot and pronounced deceased at the scene.

It’s unclear what went on behind the fenced property of the four-plex, and the commercial property to the east, also owned by the Pham family.

Motive for murder remains unclear
The family released a statement, saying, “While we are deeply grateful for the kind words we have received, we request that the family members’ privacy be respected as we grieve for our loved ones and try to deal with this terrible event.”

However, Simpson said that Detectives learned that all three victims were involved in the medical marijuana industry. “Of course, investigators are looking into any connections to marijuana as perhaps being part of this case. Right now, it’s unclear right now whether that was a factor, or not,” the police spokesman said.

An impromptu memorial is set up at the barbwire-topped, chain-link fence outside the four-plex.

In the days following the shooting, neighbors came by the impromptu memorial set up at the site. “It seemed odd that they put barbed wire up around their fence, and put up security cameras,” neighbor Angie Pederson told East Portland News.

“I had no idea they were involved with marijuana,” Pederson said. “They looked like a nice couple, the few times I saw them.”

We’ll update this story as it continues to unfold.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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