Body of man who jumped into Campbell creek found in Santa Clara

Mon, Feb 1, 2010

Friends, Local News Clips

Posted: 02/01/2010 05:39:33 PM PST

The man who tried to flee police by leaping into a storm-swollen Campbell creek 10 days ago made it almost nine miles away. But Ut “Johnny” Nguyen didn’t escape.

Santa Clara emergency workers pulled the 37-year-old man’s body from the San Tomas Aquino Creek about 12:30 p.m. Monday He was floating facedown in a matted tangle of branches and reeds where a passer-by spotted him near Mission College Boulevard and Agnew Road, police said.

“We were never 100 percent sure he had drowned, although that appeared to be the overwhelming likelihood,” said Campbell Police Capt. Dave Carmichael. “Until you can positively confirm that was the case we were still treating it as a missing persons case.”

The tragic twist to Nguyen’s death is that even if he had been busted that day that cops were knocking on the door, he most likely would have ended up with a relatively light sentence. Nguyen had a $30,000 warrant for identity theft. He was believed to have lived in San Jose and the Sacramento area.

The maximum sentence, for one count of felony identity theft, for example, is three years in prison.

But authorities weren’t even looking for him that day.

“It certainly wasn’t worth jumping,” Carmichael said.

Nguyen made his fatal run on the morning of Jan. 22 when the officers from the Postal Service knocked on the front door of a house on Buddlawn Way in Campbell that he was visiting. The inspectors contacted a person of interest at the home and then left. A Campbell officer who was there to assist postal inspectors saw Nguyen burst from the rear of the house, hurdle a fence and leap into the raging creek. Engorged with the rain from that week’s series of winter storms, the normally placid creek was basically a white-water river and the man was quickly swept away.

The last anyone saw him — until Monday — was when he was swept under a bridge downstream.

Campbell police quickly identified Nguyen. But despite regular forays with dirt bikes down the creek, which flows toward Alviso, they couldn’t find any sign of him.

Carmichael said Nguyen’s body may have been obscured by flood debris.

The Santa Clara County’s Medical Examiner’s office identified the body, helped by Nguyen’s distinctive dragon tattoo.

Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.

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