Crime A Brooklyn Murder’s Decades-Old Origins in Rural China

03:50  17 july  2017
03:50  17 july  2017 Source:   The New York Times

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Last month, Wu Long Chen, 46, was convicted in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn of murdering Ying Guan Chen, 68. The two immigrants came from families that had feuded decades before in China . Credit Brooklyn District Attorney' s Office.

A Manhattan man was convicted on murder charges Tuesday stemming from a decades - old dispute spanning two continents. "A dispute that should have ended in a village in China instead resulted in gunshots on the streets of Brooklyn .

When Ying Guan Chen — stumbling and bleeding from the bullet holes in his face and lower torso — collapsed and died in a Popeye’s restaurant in the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, it was clear almost at once that his killer was a fellow Chinese immigrant named Wu Long Chen.

But while the shooting occurred against a gritty New York backdrop — a fast-food chicken joint a few blocks from an elevated highway — it roots lay in events that started thousands of miles away in a rural village in the Chinese province of Fujian.

There, more than 20 years ago, those who know the story say, a family feud broke out, the bitterness of which survived both time and the two men’s journeys from China to New York. Last month, Wu Long Chen, 46, was convicted in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn of murdering Ying Guan Chen, 68. And on Monday, Wu Long Chen will face up to life in prison at a sentencing hearing where members of his victim’s family are expected to tell a judge about the vendetta.

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It began in the village of Fengchen, in the town of Heshang, in the Changle section of Fuzhou City, in Fujian Province, a mountainous region on the eastern coast of China that rests against the commingled waters of the South and East China Seas. According to Ying Guan Chen’s widow, Aijiao Xu, the two Chen families had lived for years near one another on an unpaved road in the village, which is populated by residents who share a common ancestry and surname.

Two of Ying Guan Chen’s brothers lived across the road from Wu Long Chen and his five brothers, and whenever the second family cleaned their house, a pile of sweepings, Ms. Xu said — much of it leaves and paper — would blow downwind toward the first family’s house, clogging its gutter. There was no municipal garbage service then, Ms. Xu said, and so the tensions eventually reached a fever point.

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One day, around the time of a Chinese New Year. Ms. Xu heard an argument coming from her husband’s brothers’ house. When she ran over with her eldest son to investigate, she said, she saw the brothers fighting with the family of Wu Long Chen.

One of Wu Long’s brothers, Ms. Xu said, had grabbed an ax and was swinging it at one of her husband’s brothers. Ms. Xu’s son hit the brother in the leg with a stick, knocking him down and leaving him, as she put it, “feeling faint.”

“His brothers had to drag him back to his house,” said Ms. Xu’s daughter, Xiaomei Chen, who was only 6 at the time, but has heard the story from her family.

Eventually, the police were called and one of Wu Long Chen’s relatives and Ms. Xu’s eldest son were both hauled down to the station house, where they remained overnight and both families were fined, Ms. Xu said.

After the fight, some of Ying Guan Chen’s relatives gathered large stones, Tianxia Chen, a neighbor of both the families, said. Then, in the evening, they went to the second story of their house and took turns hurling the stones at Wu Long Chen’s family’s house.

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The stones shattered windows and glass doors, Tianxia Chen recalled. Furniture was destroyed.

“The house was completely smashed,” he said.

And from that point onward, Ms. Xu added, the families never spoke.

So it went, even though both Wu Long Chen and Ying Guan Chen had moved to New York City. Twice, Ms. Xu recalled, the men had chance encounters on the streets of Manhattan’s Chinatown. But each time, she said, they passed one another without a word exchanged.

While both men made a living in New York working in Chinese restaurants, Wu Long Chen was fired about five years ago and in his despair he sought out Tianxia Chen, who had also moved to the city. Tianxia Chen, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, said he treated his friend for mental illness, and though it seemed to help for a while, Wu Long Chen’s troubles gradually returned.

Though he frequented the employment agencies on Eldridge Street, he was unable to hold a job, Tianxia Chen said. “He would get confused,” Tianxia Chen said.

Then, in October, just two months before the shooting, Wu Long Chen attended the wedding of a fellow Fengchen villager at the Pacificana Restaurant in Sunset Park. Ying Guan Chen was also there. Guests at the wedding said that while the two men saw each other, they did not interact. And, according to Tianxia Chen, after the event, Wu Long Chen became obsessed with Ying Guan Chen, asking repeatedly for his phone number and talking about revenge.

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“It’s been 20 years,” Tianxia Chen recalled telling Wu Long Chen. “What revenge do you seek now?”

It was around the same time, Tianxia Chen said, that Wu Long Chen claimed to have bought a gun. Worried by the news, Tianxia Chen said he told his friend: “If you bought a gun, get rid of it — throw it away.”

Though Wu Long Chen eventually claimed that he was only joking about the gun, the authorities say that he did indeed buy one. And on Dec. 7, 2015, they said, he brought it, hidden in a duffel bag, to the wedding of another immigrant from Fengchen — this one at a restaurant in Sunset Park called the Golden Imperial Palace.

Once again, Ying Guan Chen was also there. In fact, a videotape shows him placing a red gift envelope among a stack of others near the door and talking with his friends from the village. Wu Long Chen can also be seen in the videotape: sitting at a table eating dinner, the duffel bag with the gun inside beside him.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., Ying Guan Chen left the wedding. Wu Long Chen followed him, the videotape shows, trailing his rival for several blocks.

Then, at 61st Street and Seventh Avenue, Wu Long Chen, his gun in hand, approached his former neighbor on the sidewalk and fired three shots at him at point-blank range. A videotape from a surveillance camera shows Wu Long Chen running away. Another surveillance camera captured Ying Guan Chen stumbling into the Popeye’s where he collapsed.

After 20 years of hearing tales about the fight in Fengchen, Xiaomei Chen, Ying Guan Chen’s daughter, said she still had a hard time believing that something from the distant past — and from another continent — had caused her father’s death.

“How is it even possible that someone could hold a grudge over something like this?” she said.

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