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Investigators Say Vietnamese Gunman Suffered from ‘Loss of Face’

September 1, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A Vietnamese immigrant who killed four relatives and another person before committing suicide may have been provoked by a ″loss of face″ after it was discovered he stole money from his aunt, police said.

″It was an issue of him using money from his aunt’s account without that aunt’s authority,″ said police spokesman John Gillespie.

″He’d been confronted by the family on it so he called the family together to discuss the problem, at which point he drew a gun and started shooting.″

Investigators determined Monday that Minh Le, 23, took an Uzi semiautomatic gun and shot seven people, including his 48-year-old aunt, Xuan Le, and five other relatives, before shooting himself Sunday in the worst murder-suicide in Boston’s history.

Of the two cousins who survived, 19-year-old Tri Huynh was on the danger list in the intensive care unit at Boston City Hospital, and 3-year-old Phuong Huynh had improved from critical to stable condition at New England Medical Center, hospital officials said today.

Le apparently feared the confrontation with his relatives and their threats to turn him in to police would result in a loss of honor, said Gillespie, adding that Le had no criminal record.

″In Vietnamese culture, they call it loss of face,″ he said. ″Our investigation is going in that direction.″

A survivor of the attack, David Huynh, said Le stole $1,800 from his aunt’s bank account.

Police were trying to determine how Le managed in recent months to travel on his hotel maintenance worker’s salary from Boston to New York, Salt Lake City and Ottawa, Canada.

Le, who came to the United States from Vietnam about four years ago, reportedly worked as a domestic for several Boston-area hotels and had a special gun permit from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, said police spokesman Jack Kervin.

He said Le’s purchase of the Israeli-made Uzi was legal.

Hamilton Perkins, a Public Safety Department firearms specialist, said aliens can apply for special permits by providing the state with basic information about their jobs, entry into the United States and physical characteristics.

Le’s other victims were his 52-year-old uncle, two cousins in their 20s, and 24-year-old Mei Geir, who was David Huynh’s girlfriend, Huynh said.

Tuan Tran, a Vietnamese interpreter who knew the Huynhs, said members of the family sponsored Le when he entered the United States.

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