Sunday, June 28, 2015
ABC "In an Instant": "Bad Guys at the Good Guys": the biggest domestic hostage rescue in US history, and a communist-related terror attack
Saturday night, a repeated episode of ABC’s “In an Instant” covered the April, 1991 Sacramento hostage crisis at a Good Guy’s Electronics Store. Wikipedia has the factual story here. This was the largest hostage rescue in US history. The episode is titled “Bad Guys at the Good Guys” with link here.
Four refugees from Vietnam (three were brothers) stormed a Good Guys electronics store with handguns and a shotgun and held about forty people, customers and employees, hostage, making outrageous demands. It became apparent that their motive was more to make a political statement about their frustration of living in the US. The idea was direct intimidation, to “bring low” civilians and make others walk in their shoes.
Such psychology has gotten attention from radical Islam, of course, since 9/11, and with ISIS. But it is known in secular totalitarian revolutionary ideology, too, especially communism. The behavior of the attackers reminds one of the Khmer Rouge, for example. This incident precedes 9/11 by ten years and OKC by four, and even Waco by two. It's surprising that it isn't better remembered.
Three hostages were killed, and fourteen wounded (eleven more were shot, including one young man who was shot in the knee in exchange for his freedom, to make a political point; the documentary does not say how he fared later). One pregnant woman lost her baby (which now would be considered one more death in a murder prosecution). Three of the attackers were killed in the final raid, but one survived and was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences without parole.
Arguably, the act could have been viewed as an act of terrorism (if it happened now, it might evoke federal prosecution). It might have been viewed as a reaction to US policy in Vietnam, which killed hundreds of thousands on both sides and still lost the war to communism in 1975. Vietnam has since adopted statist capitalism resembling China’s.
I do recall overhearing (even in person) “terror” rhetoric from the extreme Left in the early 1970s (like the Weathermen and others), as I detail in Chapter 3 of my first DADT book (talking about the People’s Party of New Jersey). Middle class professionals were viewed as part of the “pig” class who could have it coming to them. In one of my (unpublished) novel manuscripts, secular communist infiltrators release radioactive plutonium in New York City (leading to chaos), and this plot was conceived by me in 1982 as fiction. This idea wasn’t talked about much publicly, but was viewed as possible even during the Reagan years. That was one reason for the “civilian defense reservist” program formed in the 1980s.
Sacramento skyline (Photo by Mark James Miller), Wikipedia attribution link under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license. My most recent visit was in Nov. 1995.