SANTA ANA – The victim was waiting in line to get into a popular nightspot that attracts people who crave old-school hip-hop and $15 hamburgers, where the floor is cleared late at night so customers can dance.
Far from a seedy dive bar, The Crosby, at Fourth Street and Broadway, is an anchor of the city’s growing downtown night scene – what one local business owner and resident calls “a place for people to love and hang out.”
Now, The Crosby, operating since 2008 in an area not known recently for a high crime rate, is linked to the savage beating of a young woman whose assault early Saturday morning – in front of dozens of people lined up outside the venue – is being pieced together by Santa Ana police.
Kim “Annie” Pham, 23, of Westminster was declared dead Tuesday at 12:36 p.m., according to the Santa Ana Police Department. She had been on life support, in the hope that her organs could be donated, according to a family statement.
A woman believed to be in her 20s has been arrested in connection with the incident. Her name has not been released by police, who are searching for two other women and two men who they believe kicked and punched the 5-foot-1, 115-pound Pham in the head and body.
Police also hope to find more cellphone video and surveillance footage from area businesses.
A video of the incident posted online shows people wrestling and kicking a figure on the ground as a small crowd looks on. One person crouches nearby to get cellphone video, and a security guard wades into the melee, apparently trying to intervene. Police are hoping other video will show events, such as an argument, that might have led to the incident, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Bertagna said detectives are hoping people who were with the female suspect will tell their side of the story. Fourteen Santa Ana police officers responded to the scene before they called in detectives to investigate.
People who knew Pham, a 2008 graduate of Marina High School in Huntington Beach who studied psychology at Chapman University, describe a vivacious woman who loved to write and who dabbled in modeling and acting.
On her Facebook page, Pham described herself as “analytical,” “truthful” and “big-hearted.”
She talks about her love of her family and friends and how she doesn’t try to impress anyone but herself and her “main squeeze – my pops.”
Carol Brodbeck, a psychology professor at Chapman, where Pham also worked for student-run Panthervision TV, described her as well-liked.
“She wrote with passion and wisdom beyond her years,” Brodbeck said. “Annie … will be missed dearly by the Chapman community.”
Ed Dana, who has been teaching psychology at Chapman for more than 20 years, said he taught Pham in four classes and considers her a friend.
Dana was Pham’s mentor in a second semester senior project she did about the mental and emotional benefits of gardening. He said the project was unique because Pham focused on helping people, while students often focus on mental disorders.
Among Pham’s published writings is an essay about her mother, Theresa Vinh Huynh, who died of breast cancer when Pham was 5. Pham was active in breast cancer advocacy.
WITH THREE FRIENDS
Pham was out Friday night with two male friends and a female friend, according to Jerry Phan, 30, of Fountain Valley, who said he’s known Pham since 2006.
Phan said he talked with the two men who were with her, and they told him that Pham’s attackers shouted “Get her! Get her!” during the incident.
Phan went to the hospital when he found out what happened but wasn’t allowed to see Pham. But, he added, a friend was allowed in and he briefly got to hold her hand while she was unconscious.
Jim Kendrick, who owns a Rags News Stand next door to The Crosby, said that when he left the area around 11:30 p.m., the crowd of about 50 waiting in line seemed peaceful.
“Everyone was in a good mood,” Kendrick said.
But authorities received a call seeking assistance at the area at 12:23 a.m., and Santa Ana police say they arrived within four minutes.
Gabriel Garcia, 27, of Santa Ana, who on Tuesday visited a growing collection of flowers and cards placed near the spot where Pham was beaten, happened to walk past the area sometime after 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.
He saw an apparently unconscious woman in a fetal position on the sidewalk.
“People were taking pictures of her from behind the (police) tape,” Garcia said.
In a bio posted on backstage.com, an online talent agency, Pham wrote that she had a passion for “acting and making (a) role come alive” and “reads scripts well and transforms easily into roles.”
In her bio, she described herself as outgoing, enthusiastic and fluent in English, Vietnamese and French.
Cameron Wohlschlaeger graduated the same year as Pham from Chapman University and worked as her supervisor at Panthervision TV. He said Pham started out as a meek television personality but blossomed into a charismatic on-air persona.
“At the time she was nervous about being an on-camera person, having been a writer with little experience,” Wohlschlaeger said. “She turned out to be a great host with a fantastic camera presence. She was great to work with, couldn’t be a sweeter person to everyone on the production.”
Dani Gomez, 22, of Brea said she had known Pham for a little over two years since they co-hosted “Table Talk,” a Panthervision show.
“It was obvious that she genuinely cared about all the topics. She also was great to joke around with,” Gomez said. “We also got to talk a lot off-camera, and she was one of the sincerest people I’ve ever met. We would talk about school and basic stuff, but we also talked about our bigger aspirations.”
Dana, the Chapman instructor, said Pham recently moved out of her family home and in with roommates. He said he met with her last week about her future endeavors. Dana said while her degree was in psychology, because it’s a subject she found interesting, her real passion was in writing.
“I took on a mentor role. I tried to help her find her way to the best of my abilities.”
Dana found out about the beating through an email sent to him by Pham’s friends.
“Whoever did this,” Dana said, “is a different type of human being than you or I.”
Staff writers Salvador Hernandez, Alyssa Duranty, Scott Schwebke and Doug Irving contributed to this story.
By BY DENISSE SALAZAR, CLAUDIA KOERNER AND GREG HARDESTY/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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