A young writer who graduated last year from Chapman University was being kept on life support Monday, two days after she was beaten unconscious on the sidewalk outside a crowded Santa Ana nightspot.
Kim (Annie) Pham, 23, was being kept alive “because her wishes had always been to help others by being an organ donor,” her family said in a short statement. “We are still fighting for Kim. Stay strong.”
Police arrested one woman in connection with the weekend assault, and were searching for two other women and two men who they believe kicked and punched Pham in the head and body. They declined to identify the suspect, except to say she was in her 20s, from Santa Ana and arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
Pham had been standing in line with friends early Saturday outside of The Crosby, a restaurant and bar that has become an anchor of Santa Ana’s growing downtown night scene. Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department said some kind of argument broke out in the line – he didn’t know over what – and it escalated until Pham was beaten unconscious.
Pham graduated from Chapman University last year with a degree in psychology, according to her aunt, Nga Doan. In an online profile, Pham said she worked in her spare time to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer.
She was also a writer, with an essay – titled “Men Don’t Talk About Their Feelings” – published in a 2011 anthology, “Pho for Life: A Melting Pot of Thoughts.”
The story was about her family and “the warmth of love,” she said in an interview for the book’s release.
“When you start to really recognize everybody around you and that the world is bigger than you, you start to see that there’s a lot of room for love in your life,” she said. “Just letting your walls down helps you see that.”
It was a somber gathering Monday evening in downtown Santa Ana as more than 100 of Pham’s family and friends lit candles and placed flowers at a memorial.
There was no protesting, no outward display of anger – just a silent, tearful crowd who showed up to honor Pham, who was described as a “lovable person.”
Most of the people who gathered for the vigil declined to comment.
The Crosby was closed.
Police were reviewing surveillance videos from businesses in the area that captured the assault on Pham, as well as several cellphone videos, Bertagna said. Witnesses have also volunteered to come in and talk to detectives, he said.
One video clip posted online appears to show people wrestling and kicking a figure on the ground as a small crowd watches and one person crouches to get a cellphone video. A security guard wades into the melee, apparently in an attempt to intervene.
A man who posted that video, but asked not to be named, said Pham was a friend. He said she seemed fine when he saw her outside of The Crosby about 30 minutes before the attack. He was inside the club when the assault happened shortly before 12:30 a.m. on Saturday.
He said a friend shot the video and told him Pham sustained several blows to the head.
A downtown business group offered a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible.
The Crosby, a foodie favorite that transforms into a music venue at night, is one of several bars and restaurants that have opened within a few blocks of downtown Santa Ana in the past several years. The night scene caters to young professionals and draws weekend crowds from throughout Orange County.
On Friday night, the crowd outside The Crosby stretched down the block as a popular group of DJs played inside. James Kendrick, who owns Rags News Stand next door, estimated that 50 people were in line when he closed up shop around 11:15 p.m.
He credits The Crosby with helping to put downtown Santa Ana on the map, and said there was no sign of trouble when he left, about an hour before the beating. On Monday, he was still shaking his head at the thought that people stood by and didn’t help the woman on the ground.
“I don’t know how people can just stand around,” he said. “All these guys standing in line, and they can’t help?”
The Crosby’s management team released a statement through the downtown business group, Downtown Inc., saying that it provides its own internal and external security and has never had an incident like this. It opened in 2008.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family and friends at this time,” the statement said.
Councilwoman Michele Martinez, who represents the downtown district, said the assault has renewed her interest in posting surveillance cameras in the area. That idea first emerged in 2010, after an Irvine man was shot to death in a nearby parking garage during a robbery.
Afterward, the downtown business association went so far as to hire security escorts for visitors. But Martinez said such major crimes are rare in the downtown, and Bertagna described it as a “safe neighborhood.”
He said he did not have crime numbers for the downtown area on Monday because it was a holiday and the department’s data crunchers were off. But he said the weekend assault was “an isolated incident.”
A memorial of votive candles and flower bouquets marked the scene of the beating on Monday. Someone had taped up posters pleading for information with pictures of Pham. “A life cut so short,” one said.
By SCOTT SCHWEBKE / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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