Born to Kill

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Born to Kill is the name of a gang of Vietnamese youth formerly based in New York City. The name is believed to have been taken from the Stanley Kubrick movie Full Metal Jacket. The group was formed by now incarcerated leader David Tho Thai in the late 1980s. Though Born to Kill was once considered the most vicious Vietnamese gang in North America, it is today believed to exist only in smaller factions nationwide, as well in Toronto and Vancouver. Its members were involved in many crimes, the majority being home and jewelry store robberies whose victims were other Asian Americans (see below).

One of the most infamous moments in the gang's history occurred in 1990, at a New Jersey funeral for Vinh Vu. Mourners present at the cemetery were shot at, and proceeded to return fire to, rival gangsters believed to be associated with Uncle Benny the Big Boss of Chinatown.


A 1995 novel by the title of Born to Kill: America's Most Notorious Vietnamese Gang, and the Changing Face of Organized Crime, written by T.J. English, attempted to record the rise and fall of the Born to Kill gang. It claims to be written (in autobiographical fashion) with the perspective of a former member, who after being arrested, chose to work with the police and bring down the core members of the organization, and thus find his way back to an honest living.

This sociological study and true-crime expose tells of the rootless young Vietnamese males sent out of the country by their families as the Saigon regime was collapsing and, after months or years in refugee camps, placed with foster families in the U.S. Some of these youths became the nucleus of New York City's Chinatown Born to Kill gang and were as violent as their name suggests. They made money "protecting" merchants and through holdups and invasions of homes, and their victims were always other Asians. One of their number, Tinh Ngo, was repelled by the gang's bloodthirstiness and became a police informant. Thanks to him and to city and federal officers, seven of the gang were apprehended, tried in 1992 and given long prison sentences, the leader, David Thai, getting life.