SAN DIEGO – The half-brother of a teenage boy on trial for the shooting death of his father at the family’s Scripps Ranch condominium testified Monday that his stepfather had been physically abusive with him and his mother in the past.
The 16-year-old defendant is being tried as a juvenile for allegedly killing 46-year-old Thanh Pham on April 29, 2018. He is also charged with the attempted murders of his mother and half-brother, who were uninjured.
The boy is accused of shooting his father five times with the victim’s gun in the master bedroom around 8:35 p.m., then firing through the door of another bedroom in which his mother and brother had barricaded themselves.
Steven Nguyen, the defendant’s older half-brother, testified Monday that on two occasions, he and Pham got into physical altercations, including one time when Pham “choked me out” in Nguyen’s bedroom, leading to Pham being kicked out of the home for about a week.
Nguyen also recounted another occasion when he saw Pham trying to force his mother into a car, then shoved her to the sidewalk when she resisted.
Last week, the juvenile defendant testified that Pham often struck him as a form of discipline, including once just minutes before the shooting. The boy testified that he fired one shot when his father lunged at him, then the remaining shots when Pham reached for the gun.
When questioned by his attorney, Mary Ellen Attridge, as to why he shot his father, the boy said: “He came at me.”
Pham was pronounced dead at the scene.
The boy, then 15, ran away from the condo before police arrived, but he was arrested about 1 a.m. the following day, roughly two miles from his home, after someone spotted him on Scripps Poway Parkway near Interstate 15. He had the handgun in his waistband and dozens of rounds of ammunition in his backpack when taken into custody, according to police.
The boy testified that he was planning to run away from home that night, saying he would “stay on the streets for the night and protect myself with the firearm,” but was confronted by his father as he was preparing to leave.
Nguyen echoed the defendant’s testimony that his stepfather was strict.
“He had to have control over every aspect of the house,” Nguyen testified Monday.
Nguyen was in his bedroom when the gunshots rang out, and said he initially thought his stepfather had gotten angry and shot either his mother or the defendant.
Though he didn’t state that he knew quite why the shooting occurred, he described the defendant as a “quiet, very smart kid,” who he never saw lose his temper.
Nguyen also said he was appearing in court in support of the boy.
“I think he does need help, but I don’t want to see him in trouble,” he testified.
Testimony in the trial was expected to wrap up Tuesday, with closing arguments possibly delivered in the afternoon.