History

Bee history: Deadly Good Guys siege unfolds on live television

Sacramento Stories: Here's how the deadly April 4, 1991 hostage standoff at Good Guys unfolded

This is one in a series of videos looking back at big stories in Sacramento-area history. This one took place on April 4, 1991, after four gunmen took 39 people hostage at a Good Guys electronics store near Florin Mall. This video contains photos
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This is one in a series of videos looking back at big stories in Sacramento-area history. This one took place on April 4, 1991, after four gunmen took 39 people hostage at a Good Guys electronics store near Florin Mall. This video contains photos

The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.

1991: Until April 4, 1991, the store at 7020 Stockton Blvd. was just another outlet in the Good Guys electronics chain, a popular shopping spot near Florin Mall.

That all ended at 1:30 that afternoon as four gunmen walked in and took 39 people hostage in a standoff that lasted for 8 1/2 hours.

By the time it ended, six people were dead, 10 were wounded and the siege would be called the largest hostage-rescue event in U.S. history.

The gunmen – three brothers and a friend of theirs – took over the store and, as sheriff’s deputies surrounded the scene, began issuing a series of bizarre demands.

They wanted a helicopter, more weapons and body armor and millions of dollars.

At one point, sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Lyons stripped to his underwear to deliver a bulletproof vest to the front of the store in exchange for the release of a woman and two young children.

Soon, local television stations began broadcasting the scene live, with the gunmen watching the coverage on televisions inside the store and declaring that they were “going to be movie stars.”

Sacramento County Sheriff Glen Craig had other ideas, sending a seven-person SWAT team in through the roof to wait for the signal to move in.

About 9 p.m., the gunmen flipped a coin to choose a victim, then shot a 24-year-old store employee in the leg and sent him crawling out of the store with demands for bulletproof jackets, a helicopter and weapons.

Half an hour later, the gunman shot another hostage in the leg, and negotiators agreed to deliver one vest to the glass front doors.

A hostage went to retrieve the vest and opened the door, giving a sheriff’s sniper a shot at one of the gunmen. But the bullet hit the door as it closed and shattered the glass, sending a gunman running down a line of hostages as he fired into their bodies.

The scene played out on live television and the SWAT team rushed in as other deputies rushed the front doors.

Three of the gunmen – Pham Nguyen, 19; his 17-year-old brother, Long Nguyen; and friend Cuong Tran, 19 – were killed. Loi Khac Nguyen, then 21, was wounded but survived and later was sentenced to 49 consecutive life terms in prison.

Now 47, Nguyen is incarcerated at California State Prison, Centinela, in Imperial.

The siege killed two store employees – Kris Sohne and John Lee Fritz – and customer Fernando Gutierrez.

The store remained open until 2005, when its lease expired.

Sam Stanton

Pony Express had historic but brief ride

 
The Pony Express statue can be seen in Old Sacramento.Sacramento Bee file

1860: The Pony Express began carrying mail between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento, and sometimes San Francisco.

Here is The Bee’s April 14, 1860, report after the first Pony Express rider reached Sacramento the previous day:

It was gratifying to behold the spontaneous and universal enthusiasm at Placerville and San Francisco on the arrival of the first Pony Express. The value to us of that mode of communication with the outer world can hardly be estimated at present. If continued, its advantages will soon be felt all over Central and Northern California, and indeed along our entire dominions on the Pacific Coast. It will bring after it, just as sure as the seasons come, a telegraph and a railroad.

Snuffed out with the invention of the telegraph, the Pony Express ended its service in November 1861, but its historic value lives on.

Cartoon Corner

 
Rex Babin editorial cartoon 2009
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