The Incident

Ocean Springs, Mississippi:   September 1999

On September 6, 1999, Dong “Tommy” Nguyen died from injuries to his throat sustained from a fistfight with Christopher Roy. He was knocked unconscious, couldn’t breathe, and suffocated.

The incident happened at the home of their mutual friend, JP May, in the backyard.  JP’s parents were home at the time.

Chris and JP grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, and shared similar interests such as working on cars. They knew Dong from school and shared a similar interest with him: making money from selling drugs.

Chris and JP often hosted keg parties or ventured to dance clubs and rave parties to find buyers for their drugs. Dong, a leader of a notorious Vietnamese street gang, the “211”, was their primary supplier for cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Dong routinely delivered packages to them to sell, and would bring more once the money was available. For several years, they lived comfortably with the business relationship.

In July, 1999, Chris owed Dong $2,500 for a cocaine deal and wasn’t able to immediately pay because of a run-in he had with local law enforcement. One night after a party he and a friend were stopped by sheriff deputies, who were patrolling the neighborhood after someone reported burglars in the area. Chris had $3,800 in his pocket that he had trouble explaining. He also had a bottle of prescription painkillers (for a back injury from a motorcycle accident) that had cocaine in it. The officers attempted to get Chris to inform on “the bigger fish”, threatening to take him to jail for the cocaine. The officers knew all about Dong and his gang’s activities – relaying a mass of investigative information to Chris while trying to get him to inform. When Chris said to just take him to jail, the deputies brought him home, dropped him off and left.

Chris was relieved until he realized they left with his money; $2,500 of it was owed to Dong.

Chris had assets to trade, but Dong was unwilling to accept a boat or SUV as payment, and unwilling to wait for Chris to sell them.

Dong didn’t care that the law knew about them selling drugs, didn’t care that someone in their circle was an informant. He told Chris, “I want my fucking money,” and threatened Chris with physical harm. By the time Chris sold the boat and had the money to pay the debt, roughly one month later, Dong had escalated his threats to include Chris’ family and was telling people within their social circles that he had “a .45 with Chris’ name on it”.

Dong and his gang were well-known for violence (including incidents against school officials and police officers). Drive by shootings, bangings with rival gangs (mostly Vietnamese), and death threats were and still are a trademark of the 211. Chris knew he was in mortal danger. He knew his family was in mortal danger. The threats weren’t to be brushed aside and forgotten. Although Chris always paid Dong in full, and subsequently told him that he would not sell drugs anymore after the incident that summer, Dong felt entitled to the income Chris provided and continued to be a threat. Dong called Chris’ home and threatened his mother, and also called Chris’ friends and threatened them if they did not tell him where Chris was staying.

That deadly night in September was a school night for Chris. He and JP were working on a 1954 Bel Air in JP’s backyard, having a few beers, when Dong showed up to drop off a package to JP. Chris was suddenly confronted by Dong – a guy known for carrying weapons and who had been threatening his life. Dong became belligerent, approaching Chris as if he intended to do violence. Chris watched Dong’s hands, then reacted to Dong’s aggression by grabbing him before he could pull out a weapon.

Chris had training in martial arts (his taekwondo teacher was actually on the jury) though had only been involved in a couple neighborhood street fights; he was known for preventing fights, among friends at local hangouts, at school and at parties. Dong was smaller than Chris, but was a vicious street fighter with far more experience in hurting people.

The fight lasted around five minutes. Chris sustained minor injuries all over and a busted chin from a headbutt. Dong’s throat was damaged from a choke hold. Chris connected with some kicks and punches that further damaged Dong’s throat and knocked him unconscious.

JP had run away from the fight, knowing Dong likely had a gun, fearing being shot by accident. Chris found him and after several minutes of anxious talking they walked back to Dong, who lay unmoving on the ground. He wasn’t breathing. He was very obviously dead.

JP stood looking at Dong’s face, terribly upset. Chris couldn’t look any more and grabbed an auto parts bag (that section of the yard had numerous junk cars in various states of disrepair and was littered with boxes, bags, etc., from parts stores) and covered Dong’s face with it.

JP feared his parents had heard the fight; they were watching t.v. in the living room, not a hundred feet from the incident. JP was borderline hysterical. Rational thought was not present in Chris, either. They knew what the 211 would do if they knew one of their members – their leader – had been killed. There was no conversation about calling the police. They only talked about how to hide everything.

Dong was placed in the back of Chris’ truck and covered with grass. They drove about an hour away, into Vancleave, looking for a secluded area. They found a spot in the woods and buried Dong. Then went back to get Dong’s car. They drove it to the Pascagoula River and pushed it down a boat ramp into deep water. Arriving back at JP’s house, they found a Marlboro Lights cigarette carton on the ground. It contained six ounces of cocaine: the package Dong was bringing to JP.

Four months went by with investigators questioning over two hundred and fifty people, mostly kids that knew Dong and his distributors. The 211 pointed to a fellow teenager named Red, who had received ten ounces of cocaine from Dong the day of the incident. He owed Dong for the ten ounces (over $7,000). When he heard Dong was missing and the 211 thought he did it, he fled to Florida (he also knew, and had witnessed, the 211’s propensity for violence). Investigators in the FBI Task Force were involved in the case because of an ongoing investigation with the 211. They quickly found Red in Florida and brought him back to Mississippi for questioning.

To get the spotlight off himself, Red pointed to JP, saying Dong brought JP a load of cocaine that night, too. It could’ve been JP and Chris, he said. Red knew about the problems between Dong and Chris, and it was well-known JP and Chris were close friends and business partners.

On January 5, 2000, JP went to traffic court and never came home. He was picked up by investigators and interrogated with aggressive tactics. He eventually broke, terrified after being beaten. Coerced, he told the arresting officers whatever they wanted to hear, agreeing with their theories in two separate statements that contradicted one another. He showed officers where Dong was buried (the car was found by swimmers a few weeks after the incident and impounded by investigators).

Later, in the early morning hours of January 6, a tactical unit lead by Sheriff Mike Byrd arrested Chris… for capital murder.

Continue to the next page to learn more about the pretrial, trial, and sentencing