December 13, 2005

Albert Owens, Tsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee-Chen Lin

Tookie Williams has been in the news quite a bit. Unfortunately, the four people he murdered over 26 years ago seem to have been forgotten, by and large, by the national press corps covering this story. In the name of fairness and justice, one would think that the media would have an obligation to balance some of the time devoted to Stanley Williams on the four people Tookie snuffed the life out of over a quarter of a century ago.

Albert Owens (picture) was a veteran and father of two young girls when he was shot in the back while lying face down on the floor of the 7-Eleven where he worked.  Owens' brother told the Kansas City Star several weeks ago:

“He did everything he was told to, he was not a threat, and they shot him to death,” Wayne Owens said. “And then in prison, bragged about the noise he made when he died.”

The District Attorney in his rebuttal asks:

What man orders another human being to lie face down on the floor and then proceeds to shoot him two times in the back at close range with a shotgun? What man later laughs when he tells his friends how the victim gurgled as he lay dying?

One can only imagine Albert Owens’ terror as he lay face down on the floor of the storage room at the 7-Eleven and heard the first shotgun blast that was fired into the security monitor. Was he hoping against hope he would not be shot to death? Was he thinking of his two young daughters and whether he would ever see them again, hold them again, tell them how much he loved them again?

Before crossing paths with Stanley Williams, Albert Owens had proudly served in the United States military. He had fathered two beautiful daughters. He had recently moved to Los Angeles to make a better life for him and his family. Stanley Williams took that dream away. He took it away from Albert, his daughters, and his entire family.

The Yang family were the other three Stanley Williams was convicted of killing in March of 1979. Here are the details of that crime from the The LA County District Attorney's response to Williams' petition for clemency:

Once inside the private office, Williams, using his shotgun, killed seventy-six year old Yen-I Yang; Williams also killed Yang's wife, sixty-three year old Tsai-Shai Yang; lastly, Williams killed Yang's daughter, forty-three year old Yee-Chen Lin. Williams then removed the currency from the cash register and fled the location.

Robert Yang was asleep with his wife in their bedroom at the Brookhaven Motel when he was awakened by the sound of somebody breaking down the door to the motel's office. This sound was immediately followed by the sound of his mother or sister screaming, followed by gun shots.

When Robert entered the motel office he found his mother, his sister, and his father had all been shot.  Robert observed that the cash register was open and money was missing.  It was later determined that the robbery of the Brookhaven Motel and the murder of the three members of the Yang family netted Stanley Williams approximately $100.

Robert Yang called 9-1-1. Two deputies from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department arrived within approximately ten minutes.  When the deputies entered the motel they noticed a strong odor of gun powder.  The deputies observed that the door leading from the public entrance into Yang's private living quarters had been forced open and the doorjamb was split open and the woodwork was torn away from the doorjamb.

As they entered, they saw Yen-I Yang lying on a sofa. He was "soaked with blood," "gasping for air, and making gurgling noises."  They also saw the bloodied body of Tsai-Shai Yang. She was making "gurgling noises" and "gasping for air," with "her knees drawn up under her, and her face down on the floor," as if she had been forced to bow down before being killed. Lastly, the deputies found the body of Yee-Chen Lin lying on the hallway floor.

These four murders are why the state of California executed Stanley Williams last night. Governor Schwarzenegger was quite right in justifying his denial for clemency: "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption." Just as important as atonement, however, is to remember that the victims and their families deserve society's thoughts and prayers every bit as much as Stanley Williams. The glorification of Tookie by some in the press and many advocates on the left is truly disturbing.

This is not meant to be an argument for the death penalty or the denial of Tookie's clemency, though I support both, but rather an argument that when we as society debate the right and wrongs of government executions and the merits of clemency for convicted killers, we need to always remember who the true victims are.