Family describes their ordeal with gunmen

Rick Wood
Michael Dengsavang, one of three men charged in the Happy Wok case.
Published on: 6/8/2010

Second-grader Calvin Dong learned one school lesson very well.

After he couldn't reach his parents and two masked men with guns came to his house in December, the 8-year-old knew to call 911.

"I'm scared," he told a Wauwatosa emergency dispatcher.

The robbers had just left his parents bound and blindfolded at their restaurant, the Happy Wok, about a block away. His father had managed to get free and dial 911 himself, so as the robbers left the apartment, police were already arriving.

One of them, Wauwatosa Officer Abby Pavlik, was wounded when a volley of gunfire pierced her squad car.

Calvin and his parents all testified Tuesday as the trial began for Michael Dengsavang, one of three men charged in the case. He faces charges of armed robbery, burglary and attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

After demonstrating to Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet that he knew the difference between truth and lies, Calvin explained that he had been with his parents at their restaurant Dec. 13 until about 9:30 p.m., when his father took him home for bed. He said his father left to get him some food and was supposed to be right back. When he wasn't, Calvin called the Happy Wok.

Yongjian Dong had just taken out the trash at the restaurant when he heard his wife, Xiuqing Zhao, scream inside.

As he rushed back in, he testified, a masked man with a gun grabbed him by the shoulder and ordered him to the floor, where his wife was already bound with duct tape.

Speaking quietly through an interpreter, Dong described their ordeal. But Dong could not identify Dengsavang, the defendant, as either of the two men who robbed him, and he admitted telling police he thought the robbers might have been speaking Spanish.

Zhao cried as she described getting her eyes and limbs duct-taped. Also speaking through an interpreter, she described how one of the robbers took the call from her son and told her to tell him she was fine. She said she told Calvin they were being robbed and to call police, but she was so nervous, she resorted to her native Chinese dialect, not the Mandarin that Calvin understands.

Soon the robbers entered the couple's apartment with the keys they had stolen. Calvin said the men never threatened him as they looked around inside and were nice to him, though they wouldn't answer his questions. After one man got a phone call in English, they left. Calvin said he heard gunshots, then called 911.

Shortly after the shooting, police found Dengsavang hiding under a pine tree not far from the apartment, at the end of a trail of footprints that was littered with a mask, gloves and a gun. He was wearing red shoes, said Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams, just as Calvin had described. And Dengsavang's DNA was recovered from a mask and gloves, Williams said.

Dengsavang's attorney, Robert D'Arruda, told jurors during opening statements that his client was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, "stung" by the swarm of police from several agencies that had descended on the scene after the report that officer Pavlik had been shot in her squad car.

D'Arruda said there was too much pressure on police to solve the case quickly, resulting in "a rush to judgment."

He also questioned why the video from Pavlik's patrol car shows her pulling into the parking area of Dong's apartment and the aftermath, but is missing nearly four minutes of the actual shooting.

Two men originally charged with Dengsavang pleaded guilty Monday to robbery and burglary charges, after the charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Pavlik was dropped. They are not expected to testify.

The trial is expected to continue Wednesday.