Victim of aggravated assault is suing the mall for lack of security – AsAmNews – AsAmNews

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By Rachel Lu, AsAmNews Intern

Over a year ago, Nhung Truong, a 44-year-old Vietnamese American and single mother of three, was attacked by assailant Joseph Harrel in an aggravated robbery at Dun Huang Plaza in Houston, Texas.

Harrel entered a plea of guilty for the crime and a judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. The vicious assault left Truong paralyzed from the waist down. Now, Truong is suing the Dun Huang Plaza Association, Inc. in a common nuisance lawsuit. 

Harrel had ambushed Truong at the mall, where a security video showed Harrel grabbing Truong and slamming her body onto the concrete sidewalk. Harrel was later caught by law enforcement, pled guilty, and is now serving 30 years in prison.

Before the attack, Truong worked as a nail technician in the Houston area, which supported her and her three children after her husband died eight years ago. However, the attack stripped Truong of her livelihood, leaving her in physical and emotional trauma. 

“Life’s hardship came one after another, I couldn’t prevent the robbery that stripped away all of my savings,” said Truong in Vietnamese during the news conference today attended virtually by AsAmNews. Local activist Hai Son Bui from We The People Organize translated for Truong. “Not only did it affect me financially, I also have not recovered from the emotional impact. Every day is still filled with agony and fear about the future’s insecurity and instability.” 

Located in the heart of Houston’s Asiatown, Dun Huang Plaza includes over 100 businesses including restaurants, boba tea shops, and other retail services frequented by employees and patrons every day. Dun Huang Plaza Association charges these businesses a fee for monthly assessments for maintaining the condominium’s public spaces.

However, the Plaza is overrun with crime. From 2021 to 2024, the Houston Police Department has received approximately 419 calls for service at the Plaza, including reckless charges of a firearm, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, and other incidents of crime.

Texas personal injury law firm, Kherkher Garcia, LLP filed the lawsuit against Dun Huang Plaza on behalf of Truong, citing chapter 125 of Texas’ Civil Practice & Remedies Code that allows individuals the right to sue property owners for knowingly tolerating and failing to stop criminal activities on their premises. 

“This lawsuit is filed for purposes of seeking temporary injunctive relief. We’re asking the judge to take action and to force Dun Huang Plaza to cease knowingly allowing criminal activity to regularly occur on their premises, and to take actions to make sure they abate that type of activity so nobody else suffers the tragic fate that Ms. Truong has,” said Nick Ware, Partner at Kherkher Garcia, LLP. 

There is no financial compensation associated with the common nuisance lawsuit that has been filed, however Ware said the next step is to file a negligence claim or negligence security claim against Dun Huang Plaza for monetary damages. Truong insisted that a common nuisance lawsuit be filed first to ensure security in the plaza.

“I’m truly in deep pain and completely exhausted, on the brink of breaking down. If only I had been protected during the robbery, maybe I wouldn’t have ended up harmed as I am today,” said Truong. “I thought my activities during that day was a safe and simple activity, but I never expected that when the robbery happened, there wouldn’t be anyone to protect or help me.” 

By Dunhuang Plaza via Dunghuang Plaza Facebook Page

AsAmNews reached out to the mall three times today and they have so far not returned our request for comment.

Amy Dunn, an Asian American lawyer at Kherkher Garcia involved with the lawsuit, frequents Dun Huang Plaza with her family, and they have friends who own businesses in the mall. Dunn emphasized Dun Huang Plaza’s strong connection to the Asian American community in the area.

“When Ms. Truong’s case landed on my desk, I felt a compelling sense of obligation to not only help Ms. Truong but the Asian American community in Houston as a whole. I am incredibly proud of Ms. Truong for her courage to speak up today, because her voice will affect change. Her actions by filing the lawsuit today will prevent something like this happening to someone in our community in the future,” said Dunn. 

Dunn told AsAmNews that after Truong spoke up about her situation, others in the Asian American community have been encouraged to speak up about other incidents as well. Since filing the lawsuit yesterday, her law firm has received numerous phone calls about similar instances. However, Dunn said this will be a tough case.

“It’s unprecedented first of all, not many law firms are courageous enough to move forward with a case like this. Litigation obviously costs money and a case like this is expensive, but my firm is dedicated to helping the Asian American community,” said Dunn.

According to Ware, Dun Huang Plaza has not increased their security protocol since Truong’s attack. Dun Huang Plaza did not respond to requests for comment in time for the publication of this article.

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