People Magazine Investigates: Was Academy-award-winning actor Dr. Haing Ngor murdered during a gang-related robbery?

Dr Haing Ngor
Academy Award-winning actor Dr Haing Ngor was 55 when he was shot outside his Chinatown apartment in 1996. (Image via IMDb)

Dr. Haing Ngor, a Cambodian genocide survivor, gynecologist, and the first Asian actor to win an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in 1994's The Killing Fields, was gunned down in a Chinatown alley in 1996.

Authorities believed Dr. Haing Ngor was shot during a robbery gone wrong by members of the Oriental Lazy Boyz. Three members of the Asian-American gang were convicted in the case two years later. It was alleged that they shot the actor after he refused to part with a gold locket that contained a picture of his deceased wife after he willingly handed over his Rolex watch.

Over the decades, however, speculations about Ngor's death have surfaced which allege that his murder was an assassination orchestrated by Cambodian dictator Pol Pot or other members of the Khmer Rouge party. An international investigation failed to produce evidence linking the crime to Cambodia, as per the Los Angeles Times.

People Magazine Investigates on ID is set to re-examine Dr. Haing Ngor's killing in an episode titled A Killing in Chinatown. The synopsis reads:

"Cambodian genocide survivor Dr Haing Ngor wins an Oscar for his role in 'The Killing Fields,' then he's gunned down outside his Los Angeles home, and the LAPD investigates a web of political intrigue, revenge and street gangs to uncover the truth."

The upcoming episode airs on the channel this Monday, July 3, at 8:00 pm ET.


Three members of the Asian-American street gang Oriental Lazy Boyz were linked to Dr. Haing Ngor's murder

Before making history as the first Asian actor to win an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category, Dr. Haing Ngor worked as a gynecologist and was one of the millions of Cambodian citizens who were victimized by the genocide by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of dictator Pol Pot. He escaped and crossed borders in 1979 before settling down in Chinatown in Los Angeles.

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Ngor won an Oscar for his first acting gig, as he played the role of Dith Pran, a New York Times interpreter in The Killing Fields. He was also a bold critic of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. He managed to evade death on multiple occasions during the party's regime.

According to the Los Angeles Times, officials and others believed it was ironic when Dr. Haing Ngor was gunned down in a Chinatown alley in what seemed like a random robbery gone wrong. He was shot to death on February 25, 1996, outside his apartment as he parked his Mercedes Benz and got out of the car.

Witnesses reported seeing three men fleeing the crime scene. The major breakthrough in the case came when Ngor's niece reported that his Rolex and a 24-karat gold locket with his deceased wife's picture were missing from his home.

The publication also reported that authorities stated his car keys were found on the vehicle's floor with $2,900 in his jacket pocket on the back seat and about $800 in his pants pocket.


More about the trial

According to the New York Times, two months after Dr. Haing Ngor's death, police arrested three teenagers, Tak Sun Tan, Jason Chan, and Indra Lim, members of the Asian-American street gang, Oriental Lazy Boyz. They stood trial in 1998 when the prosecution alleged that Ngor was shot when he refused to part with the locket with his wife's picture after willingly handing them his Rolex watch.

The Los Angeles Times reported that although the defense tried to paint the actor's death as a political hit planned by Pol Pot or other members of the Khmer Rouge, the three individuals were found guilty on April 16, 1998, shortly after Pol Pot died.

In the years that followed, the FBI and other law enforcement officials maintained that Dr. Haing Ngor's death was a random gang-related robbery and not an assassination after failing to link the crime to Cambodia.

Regardless, it has been alleged that Ngor was murdered for being an outspoken critic of the communist party and the dictator.


People Magazine Investigates will further delve into Dr. Haing Ngor's shooting death this Monday.

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Edited by Adelle Fernandes