ST. LOUIS (AP) — The beating death in St. Louis of a 72-year-old immigrant from Vietnam has left friends and family stunned, and police searching for the killers.

Hoang Nguyen died Saturday. He was beaten to death by a group of four people believed to be in their 20s — two men and two women — as he and his wife, Yen, walked home through an alley after going to a Vietnamese market, pushing a week’s worth of groceries in a cart.

Yen, 59, was also punched in the face and suffered a fractured eye socket. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she and her husband did not know the attackers.

“He said ‘No, no, no,'” Yen said, showing how one of the men grabbed her husband’s jacket near his neck and pushed him up against a wall. Hoang was punched in the head and fell to the ground. The same man then hit Yen in her right eye. As her husband tried to get up to assist her, a second man kicked Hoang and he fell again, hitting his head. His brain swelled, and he died later that day at a hospital.

“It’s a random, out-of-the-blue, brutal assault,” said St. Louis police Capt. Michael Sack. “It’s uncalled for. It’s just senseless. It boggles the mind.”

The motive for the attack is unclear and the attackers said nothing to their victims. They were not robbed. He had $68 in his pocket; she was wearing a necklace.

Police hope a surveillance video leads them to the killers.

The attack happened behind Palic Car Shoppe. Owner Mirsad Palic found the couple in the alley and their son, who had been called by his mother, screaming for help. Palic said the attack itself didn’t surprise him because the business he has run for nine years has been the target of burglars in the past.

Hoang and his wife came to the U.S. three years ago to be with their daughter and son, both living in St. Louis.

“He was really happy to come over,” said Hoang’s daughter, Lan, 35. Her father was taking English classes, hoping to become a U.S. citizen. He had taught elementary school in Vietnam.

“He loved living here. The freedom. The human rights,” Lan said.

Lan cannot understand why strangers would kill her father and brutally beat her mother.

“What if it happened to their mom or dad?” she asked. “What are they feeling?”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press


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