A Vietnamese American man died after suffering from gunshot wounds inside his vehicle in Long Beach, California over the weekend.
Police responded to a call about shots fired in the area of E. 17th Street and Gaviota Avenue around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Austin Thai, 22, a resident of Gardena, was found in the driver’s seat with gunshot wounds to the upper torso.
Life-saving measures were carried out but Thai was later pronounced dead at the scene.
“Witnesses stated a male adult, possibly African American, was seen running from the scene after the shooting,” the Long Beach Police Department said.
The motive for the killing remains unknown and no suspect is in custody as of this writing.
In an interview with NextShark, a friend identified only as “A” described Thai as an “ambitious” and “hardworking” person. They attended the same high school.
“Austin was one of the most ambitious and hardworking people you could have ever met. Not only that, he’s very kind, caring and never fails to check in on each and every one of his friends.”
“A,” who refers to Thai as a “brother,” said that he put others first and made sure everyone felt like family.
“He was an only child, so for every person he met, he made it known that he’s just trying to make himself a family. He strongly believed that blood doesn’t necessarily make you family. It’s the loyalty and relationship you build with someone that makes them family. The bond.”
Another close friend, Steven Soun, described Thai as a “bright young man with so much potential.” They met at a warehouse where they used to work together and had known each other for four years.
“He had so much plans for the future,” Soun told NextShark. “We had plans together. He was loyal, kind-hearted and so humble. I don’t know why anyone would want to have him killed.”
Soun, who also calls Thai his “brother,” added that the latter had looked up to him as a mentor. He expressed regret at how things had turned out.
“I feel like he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. He was just a kid and I took him under my wings to keep him away from stuff like this,” Soun said. “I tried to guide him to show him a better way than the streets. And just when it seems like he had turned his life around … this happened. I’m at a loss for words.”
Thai’s friends condemned his murder and expressed hopes that justice is served soon.
“Taking his life shouldn’t have been an option. If it was about money, why couldn’t they have just taken what they wanted and let him keep his life? I hope that whoever and wherever they are, they will be found and arrested, because we need to bring justice for Austin. He didn’t deserve to get his life taken away like that. No one deserves that,” “A” told NextShark.
Soun echoed the sentiment. “For the guys that did this to him, karma is waiting — either a cell or hell. I just lost a brother. He didn’t deserve this.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover expenses for Thai’s funeral. To donate, head over here.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Long Beach Police Department Detectives Gamboa or Hubbard at 562-570-7244. Those who wish to remain anonymous can reach L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477 or visit lacrimestoppers.org.
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