The following information was released by the Orange County District Attorney.
An Asian criminal street gang member was sentenced Friday to life in state prison without the possibility of parole plus an additional 255 years to life for murdering one woman and attempting to murder six other people in an unprovoked shooting at a Cypress café. Stephenson Choi Kim, 31, San Gabriel, was found guilty by a jury March 14, 2011, of one felony count of murder, six felony counts of attempted murder, one felony count of street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for murder for a criminal street gang purpose, the personal discharge of a firearm, discharge of a firearm by a gang member causing death, vicarious discharge of a firearm by a gang member causing great bodily injury, and criminal street gang activity. He was sentenced on April 27, 2012.
Six co-defendants testified in the trial against Kim and all pleaded guilty to one felony count of involuntary manslaughter with a sentencing enhancement for committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang. Co-defendants Robin Kim, 29, Cerritos, was sentenced to 11 years in state prison, Christopher Ung, 28, Lakewood, was sentenced six years in state prison, Wilson Sun, 29, Lakewood, was sentenced seven years in state prison, Chakris Kanchanapoomi, 28, Long Beach, was sentenced six years in state prison, Ashil Manek Nair, 27, Cerritos, was sentenced eight years in state prison, and Glenn Lamuel Watkins, 25, Lakewood, was sentenced six years in state prison.
On March 14, 2004, Stephenson Kim was drinking at a home with several members of his Asian criminal street gang including Robin Kim, Nair, Sun, Watkins, Kanchanapoomi, and Ung. The defendants left the home in several cars armed with firearms with the intent to fight with rival gang members.
At the 5th Wave Café in Cypress, 22-year-old Venus Hyun was enjoying dinner with six friends. Nair and Watkins entered the café and approached the victims to ask if any were gang members. Victim Richard Woodhead explained that he had previously been connected to a criminal street gang, but said that he “didn’t bang anymore” and the two gangs were not enemies. Nair and Watkins left the café and told Stephenson Kim about the conversation they had inside.
Stephenson Kim took a firearm and entered the crowded café. The other defendants waited outside as Robin Kim drove to the rear entrance to wait for Stephenson Kim. Stephenson Kim approached the table where Hyun was sitting with her friends and began to shoot at the seven people at the table. Stephenson Kim murdered Hyun by shooting her in the back. The bullet entered her body, bounced off her shoulder blade, and ultimately lodged in her brain. Hyun collapsed and died a few hours later at the hospital.
Stephenson Kim also shot Jean Lee in the back. The bullet went through the victim’s body and exited her chest. Stephenson Kim shot Michael Paek in the hand and John Chung in the arm. When Ronald Woodhead attempted to wrestle the firearm from the defendant, Stephenson Kim shot the victim in the stomach. These four victims survived the shootings. Stephenson Kim missed victims Richard Woodhead and Kung Yoo as he shot at the group of friends.
Stephenson Kim fled out the back door to the car where Robin Kim was waiting. All of the defendants returned to the original home to congratulate Stephenson Kim for the shooting. Eventual anonymous tips led to the arrest of all the defendants by the Cypress Police Department.
During the guilt phase of the trial, the People presented evidence that a confession letter addressed to the police and media was found on the defendant’s computer after his arrest. The People also presented evidence that Stephenson Kim sent a note, or “kite,” while in jail awaiting trial to co-defendant Watkins stating that he believed Watkins was a “snitch.” He also wrote, “Don’t worry. I’m making sure the witnesses don’t testify.”
During the penalty phase of the trial, Hyun’s sister, Vivian Hyun, testified that her family has been devastated and destroyed by the murder of Venus. She explained that she was the first to arrive at the hospital, and therefore became the representative for her family. Vivian Hyun testified that, at only 19 years old, she was alone when she learned that her sister had been murdered, was alone as she was led to see her sister’s dead body, and was alone when she had to call and tell her parents. The jury deadlocked during the penalty phase with seven jurors in favor of the defendant to receive the death penalty and five for life without parole.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley prosecuted this case.
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