GUN VIOLENCE

Miami-Dade Police search for killers of 10-year-old boy in nail salon robbery

 

ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Predicting that they’ll kill again, Miami-Dade police on Saturday blanketed the neighborhood with photos of two gunmen who fatally shot a 10-year-old boy as his mother and father watched during the brazen robbery of their nail salon on a busy thoroughfare .

“They obviously didn’t think twice about taking a human life, and they’ll do it again,” said Miami-Dade detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “This is not the time for a code of silence. This is not the time to worry about snitching.”

Though it didn’t capture the shooting itself, a video security system recorded the two men bursting into Hong Kong Nails salon at 14832 NW Seventh Ave. Friday night, pistols already drawn.

Moments later, young Aaron Vu was dead and his father, 42-year-old Hai Nam Vu, was critically wounded. Hai Nam Vu and his wife Lynn own the salon, and workers at neighboring stores say the boy often hung out there with his parents.

“I saw the boy over there with his dad all the time,” said an employee at nearby barber shop. “He was a cute little guy.”

Though the crime took place around 7:35 p.m., near closing time, several customers — police wouldn’t say how many — were inside the small salon and saw everything that happened. So did Vu’s wife.

‘INCREDIBLY CLEAR’

“We’ve got a number of witnesses to what happened,” said Zabaleta. “Now we need to know where the gunmen went.”

Images from the video clearly show the face of one gunman, a young man wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and a red headband. The other has what police said is a red shirt draped around his head like a ski mask.

The video shows the two men striding aggressively into the shop, guns drawn. They disappear from the frame, then reappear as they leave the shop — one of them now carrying what appears to be a woman’s purse.

Though Zabaleta said the gunmen “clearly had robbery on their minds” as they entered the store, he declined to describe exactly what took place or what — if anything — triggered the shooting.

But he did say they sped away from the salon in a black Dodge Ram pickup truck. “There was a lot of traffic along there, and somebody had to have seen that truck going out of there at a high rate of speed,” Zabaleta said. “And somebody has to recognize the photo of the one gunman. It’s an incredibly clear image.”

Hong Kong Nails is located in one of the small strip shopping centers that dot that section of Northwest Seventh Avenue, nondescript except for their near-universal use of anti-burglary grills and shutters.

Most of the shops surrounding the salon had either shut down for the evening or were about to when the shooting started Friday night. Workers who talked to a Miami Herald reporter the next day said they had no idea what was happening.

“I heard some noise over there, but I just thought they were moving stuff around, banging furniture,” said a woman working at a dry-cleaning shop next door. “I didn’t find out what had happened until I started to go home and there were cops and crime-scene tape all over the place.”

Agreed a barber a few doors away: “I heard a pop, but I thought it was a tire bursting out on the street.”

Workers and customers said the Vus, who live in West Broward, have operated the salon for at least five years and possibly much longer. Though the shop is small, it is fanatically popular.

“Lynn is such a nice person, knows all of her customers by name, remembers how they like their coffee,” said one customer who asked not to be named. “Everybody loves her. A lot of the time you have to take an appointment at 5:30 a.m. to be able to get in.” The customer, in fact, was outside the shop at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, waiting for it to open and unaware of the shooting. “Then two Vietnamese guys, friends I guess, arrived and opened the doors,” she said. “And I saw blood everywhere.”

Later Saturday, as word of the shooting spread through the shopping center, bunches of flowers and a teddy bear were piled up in a makeshift memorial in front of the shuttered salon.

ALL TOO FAMILIAR

Such offerings have been depressingly familiar in a fall that has been dangerous for Dade children. Among the victims of gunfire have been a 9-year-old shot in the face Friday in Overtown; an 11-year-old wounded earlier this month in Miami Gardens; a 13-year-old hit in the leg in Miami Gardens last month; and 12-year Tequila Forshee, killed by a bullet to the head in August as her grandmother braided her hair.

Police have posted a $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information about the shooting can call CrimeStoppers, 305-471-TIPS (8477) or 866-471-8477. Information can also be shared through www.crimestop persmiami.com.

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