Vietnamese Refugee Charged After Allegedly Saying He Would Shoot People at a Church

August 12, 2020 Updated: August 12, 2020

A refugee who allegedly threatened to carry out a shooting at a church in a Texas city has been charged with a firearm offense, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox announced on Tuesday.

Hieu Tran Trung, a north Vietnamese refugee living in Lubbock, Texas, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He made his first appearance in court on Monday afternoon.

The 45-year-old was barred from possessing firearms after a 1998 conviction for assault on a public servant, according to a Department of Justice release. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison if found guilty.

“I’m grateful to the citizen who reported his friend’s concerning behavior to federal authorities. His courage in speaking out may well have saved lives,” Nealy Cox said in a statement. “It’s critical that we act quickly when we get information like this and I commend our law enforcement partners who immediately intervened before the defendant could inflict real harm.”

According to the criminal complaint, Trung allegedly said that he would “spray up” random people at his church. He had allegedly asked a friend to “get me one of them straps,” which is a slang term for firearms. The friend refused. A week after Trung’s initial alleged statements, he allegedly texted the friend a photo of himself holding two firearms, and later forwarded another photo showing a large amount of ammunition. Part of the accompanying caption read, “locked and leaded.”

According to the friend, Trung allegedly said that he could easily kill someone and leave town. By late July, he said that he would “show who he can be.”

At some point, the friend reached out to the FBI, notifying the agency about Trung’s alleged statements.

Investigators found a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic pistol inside a briefcase in a search of Trung’s residence.

“The defendant knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms, but still went out of his way to illegally obtain them. He also threatened to use these illegal firearms against his perceived enemies. As a result, we moved quickly to prevent a violent crime,” FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno said in a statement.

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to detecting and assessing possible threats as they arise. We work hard to protect our communities from violent individuals and encourage the public to report any suspicious activity that poses a threat to public safety.”

The case was brought under Project Guardian, an initiative of the DOJ to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearm laws in the United States.

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