Golden Dragon massacre

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Golden Dragon Massacre
Chinatown (1885393740) (cropped).jpg
2007 photograph of Imperial Palace, which replaced the Golden Dragon in the same space
Golden Dragon massacre is located in San Francisco
Golden Dragon Restaurant
Golden Dragon Restaurant
Golden Dragon massacre (San Francisco)
Location 816 Washington Street, San Francisco, California, U.S.
Coordinates 37°47′42.6″N 122°24′24.8″W / 37.795167°N 122.406889°W / 37.795167; -122.406889Coordinates: 37°47′42.6″N 122°24′24.8″W / 37.795167°N 122.406889°W / 37.795167; -122.406889
Date Sunday, September 4, 1977
02:40 a.m. (PST)
Attack type
Mass murder, massacre, gang-shooting
Deaths 5
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators Peter Ng
Curtis Tam
Chester Yu
Melvin Yu
Tom Yu
Motive Rivalry between Joe Boys and Wah Ching gangs

The Golden Dragon Massacre or GDM (traditional Chinese: 金龍酒樓大屠殺; simplified Chinese: 金龙酒楼大屠杀; pinyin: Jīnlóngjiǔlóudàtúshā; Jyutping: Gam1lung4zau2lau4daai6tou4saat3)[1] was a gang-related shooting attack that took place on September 4, 1977 inside the Golden Dragon Restaurant, located at 816 Washington Street in Chinatown, San Francisco, California. The five perpetrators, members of the Joe Boys, a Chinese youth gang, were attempting to kill members of the Wah Ching, a rival Chinatown gang, the attack left five people dead and 11 others injured, none of whom were gang members. The perpetrators were later convicted and sentenced in connection with the murders.


At 2:00 a.m., Pacific Standard Time early in the morning of Sunday, September 4, 1977, Joe Boy gang member Tom Yu was informed by phone that members of the rival Wah Ching gang, including Michael Louie, one of its leaders, were present at the Golden Dragon restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown (Chinese: 三藩市華埠金龍大酒樓).[2] The Golden Dragon was selected not only because it was a favored hangout of the Wah Ching, it was also favored by Hop Sing Tong members and was co-owned by Jack Lee, a Hop Sing elder.[3][4]

Chester Yu (Tom's brother), Curtis Tam, Melvin Yu, and Peter Ng, all members of the Joe Boys (Chung Ching Yee) gang, took firearms and ammunition from a closet in a friend's home in Pacifica, where they had been staying during the weekend, and Chester Yu drove the group to the restaurant in a car stolen earlier that evening by Peter Cheung.[5] Forty minutes later, at 2:40 a.m., Chester Yu parked the stolen car near the Golden Dragon and stayed in the driver's seat while the others went to the restaurant. Armed with a .45-caliber Commando Mark III rifle (a modern clone of the Thompson submachine gun), two 12 gauge pump-action shotguns, and a .38-caliber revolver,[6] Curtis Tam, Melvin Yu, and Peter Ng donned nylon stocking masks, and entered the restaurant, looking for members of the Wah Ching, from 50[7] to more than 100 people,[6] many of whom were tourists, were present at the restaurant at the time of the shooting.[8]

According to Chester Yu, Ng had instructed Tam to fire a shot in the ceiling first so that "when the people panic and get down on the floor, we will decide who to shoot." Instead, without warning, the three randomly opened fire on the patrons inside the crowded restaurant, killing five people, including two tourists, and wounding eleven others, none of whom were gang members.[5] According to unofficial sources, the gunman wielding the rifle went directly to a man at a table and shot him, continuing to shoot after he had fallen to the floor, then redirecting his automatic rifle randomly into the crowd, accompanied by two shotgun blasts from the other gunmen,[6] the intended targets, who were sitting at a table at the back of the restaurant, were not injured. Up to 10 members of the Wah Ching, including their leader Michael Louie, ducked under tables during the gunfire.[8][7] Triad member Raymond Kwok Chow, then 17 years old, was among those who survived the attack.[9] Yu then drove the shooters back to the house in Pacifica.[2][5][10][11]

The cast of Proctor and Bergman were eating at the Golden Dragon after their show at the Great American Music Hall when the incident occurred. When Army veteran Peter Bergman realized the perpetrators had emptied their weapons he rose from cover in time to see their faces as they exited, he later testified in their conviction.[12]

The shooting lasted less than 60 seconds.[6] Police called it the worst mass murder in San Francisco history,[13] after returning to Pacifica, the Joe Boys slept the rest of the night and heard the news of the killing while eating breakfast later that day.[2] The perpetrators retrieved the weapons from the closet, cut them into pieces in the garage, and asked Tony Chun-Ho Szeto, another Joe Boy who had brought the breakfast of wonton soup, to dump the pieces into San Francisco Bay. Szeto drove Chester Yu to a location within sight of Kee Joon's, a Burlingame restaurant where Szeto worked, and together they dumped the parts into the Bay near the San Francisco airport.[2]


The attack was motivated by a longstanding feud between two rival Chinatown gangs, the Joe Boys and Wah Ching, the assassination attempt was retaliation for the death of Felix Huey (Chinese: 許非力), a 16-year-old Joe Boys member who was killed in a shootout with the Wah Ching in Chinatown's Ping Yuen (Peace Garden) housing project (Chinese: 平園住宅房屋大廈) on 4 July 1977.[14][7] Huey's murder, in turn, was seen as a reprisal for the earlier death in May of a Wah Ching member.[13]


The five victims fatally shot at the restaurant were later identified as:[7]

  • Denise Louie (雷典禮), 21
  • Calvin M. Fong (方凱文), 18
  • Paul Wada (和田保羅), 25, a law student
  • Fong Wong (黃芳), 48, originally from Hong Kong, a waiter at the Golden Dragon
  • Donald Kwan (君唐勞), 20


Nighttime tourism in Chinatown was depressed as restaurant reservations were cancelled en masse following the shooting, although the Golden Dragon reopened shortly after the shooting, it closed as early as 10 P.M. in the week following the shooting for lack of business that would normally keep it open until 3 A.M.[15] One week after the shooting, two members of the Joe Boys were shot by suspected Wah Ching gunmen, leaving one Joe Boy dead and the other critically wounded, in what police called a revenge-motivated shooting.[15] Business and tourist traffic remained depressed for several weeks following the shootings,[16] although other immigrants stated the rising cost of labor in Chinatown was to blame for increased prices and decreased business.[17]

Arrests and convictions[edit]

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) announced they were close to solving the crime soon after the shooting, but Chief Charles Gain criticized the Chinatown community for its silence and "abdication of responsibility" due to "the subculture of fear" of the gangs.[15] Gordon Lew, an editor of a local Chinatown newspaper, in turn criticized SFPD for relying on information and cooperation from community leaders linked to the underworld, leading to community distrust of SFPD, and concluded that "committing suicide is not a virtue among the Chinese".[15] Joe Fong, former head of the Joe Boys, said in an interview from prison that SFPD officers had been paid to protect gambling operations in Chinatown, which Chief Gain disputed as part of the police culture prior to his ascension to chief.[16] SFPD Lieutenant Daniel Murphy, head of the investigation, said "because so many innocent people were killed and injured, this time we have been getting more cooperation out of the residents and witnesses in Chinatown than we normally do."[13]

Mayor George Moscone announced a US$25,000 (equivalent to $99,000 in 2016) reward for information leading to the conviction of the shooters two days after it occurred,[18] the unprecedented reward was eventually increased to US$100,000 (equivalent to $395,000 in 2016),[16] and was collected by Robert Woo, a Joe Boys member.[19]

Five men from the Joe Boys were eventually arrested and convicted for the massacre, with three of them still serving prison sentences as of 2013, the perpetrators involved with the murders were Curtis Tam, Melvin Yu, Peter Ng, Chester Yu, and Tom Yu; the first three identified were Ng, Melvin Yu, and Tam, all 17 years old at the time of the shooting.[20]

Curtis Tam was the first person to be arrested for his involvement in the attack, in March 1978. Tam, an emigrant from Hong Kong, was 18 years old and attending Galileo High School during the time of his arrest.[8][21] Curtis Tam was identified as a suspect seven months after the shootings, and after his arrest, confessed and implicated 11 other participants.[14]

The weapons used in the attack were recovered by police from San Francisco Bay in April 1978 after Chester Yu showed them where they had been dumped.[2][22]

Tam went on trial on July 31, 1978[14] and was convicted on September 5, 1978 of five counts of second degree murder and 11 counts of assault;[21] in September 1978, Melvin Yu was convicted of five counts of first-degree murder and 11 counts of assault.[23] Tom Yu was convicted of five counts of first degree murder, eleven counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in state prison.[5] Peter Ng was convicted of five counts of first degree murder.[24]

Release and parole of perpetrators[edit]

In October 1991, Curtis Tam was released from prison; in 2014, Melvin Yu was granted parole, and during the parole hearing, he said that he had plans to live with a cousin in Hong Kong and expected to be deported back to there. Although, as of 2017, a spokesperson for the Chinese Consulate of San Francisco states that there is no record for deportation requests for Yu, and Yu has been living in San Francisco.[24]

Tom Yu is eligible for parole in 2017.[24]

Peter Ng can seek parole in 2020, after being denied eight times, most recently in 2015.[24]

Long term results[edit]

An ex-Joe Boys member, Bill Lee, wrote about the killings and his life as a Joe Boys gangster in his book, Chinese Playground: A Memoir.

The Golden Dragon Massacre led to the establishment of the SFPD's Asian Gang Task Force,[25] credited with ending gang-related violence in Chinatown by 1983.[26]

Robert Woo, the informant who collected the $100,000 reward, was killed during a shootout with police while robbing a jewelry shop in Los Angeles on December 19, 1984.[19][27]

The Golden Dragon restaurant continued operation shortly after the massacre, but was closed in January 2006 after a failed health inspection, the restaurant also owed a year's worth of paychecks to its employees.[3][28] It was reopened as the Imperial Palace Restaurant.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Donat, Hank (2002). "Notorious SF: Golden Dragon Massacre". MisterSF. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e People v. Szeto, 29 Cal. 3d 20 (Supreme Court of California 11 February 1981).
  3. ^ a b Hua, Vanessa (11 May 2006). "Workers want pay from Dragon / Back wages claimed as restaurant reopens under new name". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  4. ^ Bill Lee. "The Tongs of Chinatown" (Interview). Interview with Michael Zelenko. FoundSF. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d People v. Yu, 143 Cal. App. 3d 358 (Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Two 26 May 1983).
  6. ^ a b c d "Chinatown Attack Kills 5, Wounds 10 In San Francisco". The New York Times. 5 September 1977. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Chinatown massacre victims were just innocent bystanders". Lodi News-Sentinel. UPI. 3 September 1977. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c "Make First Arrest in Golden Dragon Massacre of 1977". The Hour. UPI. March 24, 1978. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Mozingo, Joe (27 March 2014). "In Yee case, a figure of many faces". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  10. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl (14 September 1995). "COLUMN ONE : School's Out for Convicts : Taxpayers have stopped paying for inmates' college degrees in a backlash against prison reform. Corrections officials decry the loss of a powerful rehabilitation tool.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Golden Dragon massacre". San Bernardino County Sun. 27 August 1978. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "Proctor & Bergman "On The Road"". Firezine. Vol. 1 no. 5. Spring 1999. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c "San Francisco Police Fear Reprisal In Slayings Laid to Chinese Gangs". The New York Times. 6 September 1977. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c "Trial Set in Golden Dragon Deaths". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. July 31, 1978. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  15. ^ a b c d "San Francisco Ambush Called Chinese Gang Revenge". The New York Times. 12 September 1977. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  16. ^ a b c Turner, Wallace (2 October 1977). "Coast Chinatown Seeks to Still Fears". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  17. ^ Ledbetter, Les (13 February 1978). "Year of Horse a Time of Change For Chinatowns Across Nation". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  18. ^ "$25,000 Reward Offered In 5 Slayings on Coast". The New York Times. AP. 7 September 1977. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Wood, Tracy (29 November 1987). "Courtroom Testimony Unveils Events Leading to Chinatown Murders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  20. ^ "3 Accused in California In Killing of 5 in Chinatown". New York Times. UPI. 22 April 1978. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Chinese immigrant guilty in murders, Associated Press, 7 September 1978.
  22. ^ Mullen, Kevin J. "The Golden Dragon Restaurant Massacre". 
  23. ^ Massacre Suspect Convicted, Associated Press, September 26, 1978.
  24. ^ a b c d Sernoffsky, Evan (September 3, 2017). "Freed killer in Golden Dragon massacre: It will take ‘lifetimes to make amends’". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 September 2017. (subscription required)
  25. ^ Gang Task Force, San Francisco Chronicle, 17 September 2007.
  26. ^ "Squad reduces Chinatown violence on coast". The New York Times. UPI. 23 September 1983. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  27. ^ Butterfield, Fox (13 January 1985). "Chinese organized crime said to rise in U.S.". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017. 
  28. ^ "Opinion: Long-overdue paychecks". San Francisco Chronicle. 25 March 2005. Retrieved 19 September 2017. 
  29. ^ Hua, Vanessa (7 October 2006). "Restaurant must pay $1 million to workers". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 19 September 2017. .

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