Wah Mee massacre
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|Wah Mee massacre|
Entrance to the former Wah Mee Club (2007).
|Location||Seattle, Washington, United States|
|Date||February 19, 1983
|Mass murder, armed robbery, gang attack|
|Perpetrators||Kwan Fai "Willie" Mak, Wai-Chiu "Tony" Ng, B. Ng|
The Wah Mee massacre (traditional Chinese: 華美大屠殺; simplified Chinese: 华美大屠杀; pinyin: Huáměi dàtúshā; Jyutping: Wa4mei5 daai6tou4saat3) was a gang-related multiple homicide that occurred on February 18, 1983, in which Kwan Fai "Willie" Mak, Wai-Chiu "Tony" Ng, and Benjamin Ng gunned down fourteen people in the Wah Mee gambling club in Seattle. Thirteen of their victims lost their lives, but one survived to testify against the three in the high-profile trial. It remains the deadliest mass murder in Washington state history.
The Wah Mee club operated illegally in a basement space on Maynard Alley South, just south of South King Street in Seattle's Chinatown. The club's regulars included many wealthy restaurant owners, several of whom were among the victims. Security at the club was based in part on a system of passing through multiple successive doors, which had been used in similar Chinatown gambling dens for generations, and had usually been quite effective. Mak and his accomplices defeated the system only because they were known and trusted by the people at the club. Their presumed intent was to leave no witnesses, since club patrons could have readily identified them—as the one survivor, Wai Y. Chin, actually did. Mak had been planning the robbery for weeks, and he enlisted Benjamin Ng, and later Tony Ng.
Trial and sentencing
On February 24, 1983, Benjamin Ng and Willie Mak were charged with thirteen counts of aggravated first-degree murder. Benjamin Ng was represented by famed Seattle defense lawyer John Henry Browne. Mak was represented by the associated counsel for the accused, lawyer Jim Robinson. The State was represented by William Downing and Robert Lasnik. Tony Ng became the third suspect, charged in absentia on March 30, 1983 with thirteen counts of aggravated first-degree murder.
In August 1983 Benjamin Ng was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two months later, Willie Mak was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
On June 15, 1984 Tony Ng became the 387th person to be listed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list (see FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, 1980s). He was arrested October 4, 1984 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Tony Ng was acquitted in April 1985 of murder, but convicted of thirteen counts of first-degree robbery and a single count of assault with a deadly weapon. Each robbery charge brought a minimum sentence of five years, to be served consecutively.
In February 17, 1987 the Washington State Supreme Court issued a stay of execution a month before Willie Mak's scheduled execution, but on May 2, 1988 the State Supreme Court let Mak's murder conviction stand. However, on November 10, 1988, Willie Mak's execution was delayed indefinitely by a federal judge. On January 8, 1991 U.S. District Judge William Dwyer overturned Willie Mak's death sentence, saying Mak's attorneys failed to present evidence on their client's background that could have saved his life. On July 16, 1992, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate Mak's death sentence.
On November 9, 1994, a King County Superior Court judge denied Mak's bid for a new trial but allowed prosecutors to hold a new sentencing hearing. On February 15, 2002, a King County Superior Court judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 2002. On April 29, 2002, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that Mak will not face the death penalty because the 1983 jury wasn't asked to determine how much of a role he had in the crime. On September 6, 2006, a parole board met to determine whether Tony Ng should receive parole on his 12th robbery term. If given parole, he would begin serving his 13th term, and be eligible for parole and potentially freed in 2010. Both former King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng and former Seattle Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons asked the parole board to deny parole on the 12th count. Relatives who came to the hearing expressed outrage that they were not made aware of previous parole hearings and that Tony Ng was so close to possible release because of it.
On February 2010, a parole board unanimously decided "now is the time to parole Mr. [Tony] Ng to his final count", which will allow him to be released as early as 2014.
In 2014, Tony Ng was released from prison. He was deported from the United States on May 14, 2014.
On Christmas Eve, 2013, a fire destroyed the top floor of the mostly vacant building. Many local residents believe that it was deliberately destroyed for the insurance money.
- Mak spared death for Wah Mee killings, Tuesday, April 30, 2002, By Tracy Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter
- The Seattle Times: Local News: 23 years haven't erased grief caused by Wah Mee Massacre
- Wah Mee Massacre prisoner closer to release, KOMO News, retrieved on 15-05-2010]
- Man convicted in Wah Mee Massacre granted parole, The Seattle Times, retrieved on 25-10-2013
- "Wah Mee e-book by Todd Matthews" at wahmee.com
- Wah Mee Massacre at HistoryLink
- "Massacre @ South King Street" at Mutterings of a Mad Race