Pride and Prejudice

Nobody can say why Loi Nguyen fell through the cracks. All they can say is they're sorry.

But Brandy tells New Times that Dalton got it wrong. It was the other Asian student who hit her, not Loi, she repeats. Showing a photo of herself as proof, Brandy adds that the weapon struck her near the right eye, not her left eye, as the officer reported.

"I didn't make any racial comments, I swear, though some were made," Brandy says. "I just told them to put down their bats and fight like men, stop being pussies. Then I got hit, though I know it was an accident."

Another Phoenix officer interviewed Joe Smith on the afternoon of the brawl. Her report says Smith told her that "while walking home from Thunderbird High School with some of his friends today . . . he was confronted by approximately 15 Asian males, in which eight of these Asian males assaulted him with nunchakus and steel pipes. . . . The suspects threatened to assault his girlfriend, Brandy Walmer, at which point Joseph stepped in to defend her."

Joe tells New Times that the fight was prearranged, and he'd rushed into the cul-de-sac in his car when he saw the Asians pull in there. And Joe admits Brandy tried to come to his aid, not the other way around, when the brawl started.

Jonathan Duffy claims another student--not Brandy or Joe--shouted racial slurs at the Asians seconds before the fight began.

"This kid who didn't even know what was happening was screaming at them, 'Get out of the car, you fuckin' gooks,'" Duffy says. "Things were starting to get out of hand."

Duffy says Joe Smith wanted to know which of the Asians--it wasn't Loi Nguyen--allegedly had shoved his girlfriend, Brandy during the previous Friday's clash.

"Joe then just took off after the guy, just slammed him down on the ground, and everyone just scattered," Duffy says. "The Asians started pulling out bats and clubs and metal things. I got hit in the back of the head with something almost right away."

Another police report--not Dalton's--says "the victims were verbally harassing the suspects by calling out racial slurs. . . . The day of the incident, the group of white males and females were at the location on Surrey, and when the Asians arrived, they began yelling, 'Get out of the car, chink.' The suspects got out and the fight began."

After the Fight
"We didn't have much experience with this particular set of dynamics," says Thunderbird principal Jennifer Johnson. "There were the references to 'Asian Pride' that we heard about, and the fact that the other side also had some history--they weren't just poor, innocent little blond-haired, blue-eyed waifs. At Thunderbird, we have boys who fight over girls, and girls who fight over boys. But not much in the way of gang activity."

School officials started their investigation into the clash the next day, Tuesday, September 22. Brandy Walmer came to school with her mother, Susan Grant, and tentatively identified several Asians from the yearbook whom she said had taken part in the fight--including Loi Nguyen.

Grant, who attended Thunderbird in the late 1970s, says Phoenix officer Dalton told her what she knew about Brandy's assailants:

"Their lady officer kept telling us that she'd worked the Sunnyslope area and that most of these Asian kids were being bused in from there, and that Asian kids in the gangs are cruel, heartless and ruthless, let alone care that they were killing a woman or a child. I didn't know what was going on around there."

(Dalton didn't respond to numerous requests for comment on this or other aspects of this story. Detective Mike McCullough, a Phoenix police spokesman, says Dalton denies making that particular statement to Grant.)

Loi performed a charade for his parents that morning of going to school, though he never got there. He also didn't come home for dinner, which they say had never happened before. Around 10 that night, Lan called Darla Sebenik at home.

Sebenik drove to the Nguyens' home, and sat with Miet Tran as Cuom and Lan rode around looking for Loi. They returned home with him about 11 p.m. or so, saying they'd found him at a West Bethany Home Road arcade.

"Loi wouldn't look at me when he came in, wouldn't say hello," Sebenik says. "I said, 'Thank God you're okay.' Cuom was ballistic. They went in the other room. . . . Later, I sat beside her for a long time. She was shaking. I told her to take deep breaths. I said, 'No matter how upset you are, you must support Loi.' But I still didn't know what was happening with him."

Cuom says she didn't know, either.
"I didn't want him staying out late because that's not good," she says. "I didn't know then about any fight, or that he had missed school."

Loi again skipped school Wednesday. Brandy Walmer says she returned to classes that day sporting a deep facial bruise, and got the sympathy of dozens of fellow students.

"A lot of my guy friends said they'd go after the Asians for hitting a girl," she says. "I said it had been an accident. I felt stupid for being babied. That's when a lot of the real racist stuff started on campus--the football players huddled them [Asian students], so did the skaters."

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