August 12, 2003
Official taken off cop probe
DA's Decision in Shooting Case Made Known During Meeting With Asian-American
By Elise Banducci
News) - Santa Clara County's district attorney has quietly removed one of
his top prosecutors from the investigation into last month's fatal police
shooting of 25-year-old Bich Cau Thi Tran.
News that Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu would not be in charge of the
investigation came during a Monday meeting between District Attorney George
Kennedy and Asian-American leaders still outraged by the July 13 death of the
mother of two.
Tran was shot in the kitchen of her East Taylor Street home by an officer
responding to a 911 call of an abandoned child. Tran was wielding what police
say appeared to be a cleaver but turned out to be an Asian vegetable peeler with
a 6-inch blade.
After Monday's meeting at San Jose City Hall, Kennedy said Sinunu -- who
normally supervises police misconduct investigations -- was taken off the case
``shortly'' after it was opened.
Instead, Deputy District Attorney Dan Nishigaya is in charge and reporting
directly to Kennedy.
Sinunu's comments to media outlets immediately after the shooting may have
In a July 17 Mercury News article, she was quoted as saying that the police
action was ``misunderstood.'' In addition, she urged police to display to
reporters the instrument Tran was holding.
``She appeared to be advocating for the police when we're neutral right now,''
Kennedy said after the meeting, which was organized by City Councilman Chuck
Reed. ``Her statements evidenced some premature judgment of the facts.''
Kennedy's step indicates how extraordinarily sensitive the controversial
shooting, which is being reviewed by the FBI, has become.
In an unusual move, the DA has called for open grand jury hearings into the
shooting. San Jose police have reached out to the Vietnamese-American community
through neighborhood meetings and a radio campaign expressing sympathy and
Richard Konda, executive director of the San Jose-based Asian Law Alliance,
described Monday's meeting to explain grand jury and district attorney
procedures as ``useful.'' He said he saw it as a positive sign that Sinunu would
not be in charge of the case.
``One of the concerns all along is we want this to be a fair and objective
investigation,'' Konda said. ``Based on certain statements that were made to the
media by Ms. Sinunu, it seemed like she had already drawn some conclusions about
ONLINE: To read earlier stories on the shooting and its aftermath, go to:
Contact Elise Banducci at
email@example.com or (408) 295-3983.