The family of an elderly man who was killed by a transient inside his Garden Grove apartment on Wednesday night is speaking out about the tragic incident.
Chuong Pham, 87, was killed after being attacked by Mario Brancato, a 26-year-old homeless man, inside his apartment on the 9900 block of Central Avenue at around 7:30 p.m., according to the Garden Grove Police Department.
Surveillance video from Pham’s Ring doorbell camera captures the moment Brancato somehow made it inside Chuong’s home where he stayed for over an hour. It’s unclear what the two were speaking about, but footage captures the two conversing near the front door for some time.
Chuong, who had moved to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1996, had lived at the El Centrico apartment complex for over 20 years.
His sons recalled the moment they received an alert on their phones of the intruder inside their father’s home.
“He walked with my dad to go to my dad’s room and then another camera [shows] the door closed,” said Khanh Pham, the victim’s son.
Khanh said a relative later called his father’s phone to video chat and said it was Brancato who answered the phone instead. The suspect then reportedly started yelling at the relative.
Khanh said his brother, who lives with their father, immediately rushed back home to save his dad after receiving the Ring camera alert.
“He opened my dad’s door and he saw the man stand and look at him and my dad is on the floor, on the carpet, with blood everywhere and he tied my dad,” Khanh said.
Chuong’s sons said their father’s hands were bound together with a phone cable. Khanh’s brother then went outside to call for help to subdue the fleeing suspect.
“We held him down because the son said, ‘My dad has died and that guy killed my dad. He’s bleeding,’” recalled a neighbor, named Patrick, who helped take down Brancato.
The neighbor said as soon as he noticed Brancato was not holding any weapons, he immediately went to restrain him.
“There were no weapons found at the scene, but during the assault we don’t know if there were additional household items that could have been used to strike the victim,” said Sgt. Nick Jensen with the Garden Grove Police Department.
The incident was initially reported to officers as a burglary in progress. Arriving officers had found Brancato “being restrained on the ground by numerous residents who live in the area” where he was taken into custody.
The victim, who was unresponsive, was transported to the hospital where he later died from his injuries.
News of Chuong’s death has shocked neighbors who always knew the man to be a friendly face who enjoyed leisurely walks around the community.
Although Chuong was found severely beaten, investigators said his official cause of death remains under investigation by the coroner’s office. The motive behind the deadly incident remains unknown.
“At this time, there is no known connection between the suspect and the victim,” police said.
Chuong’s sons said they noticed Brancato rummaging through their father’s drawers during the incident, so a burglary motive may not be out of the question, but so far, they are awaiting answers from police.
Brancato was booked into the Orange County Jail. He is reportedly on probation after being sentenced in Aug. 2022 for charges related to vandalism and DUI. Investigators are continuing to speak with neighbors and eyewitnesses in the area.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Rogers at 714-741-5413 or Garden Grove Police Department Investigations at 714-741-5800.