With all the violence in New Yorks Chinatown focused on Chinese street gangs, the Vietnamese Born To Kill were able to grow strong under the radar.
New York is a lucrative place for both legal and illegal businesses. For a long time New Yorks underground was ruled by the Italian mob, by the 1990s the mobs power started to shrink smaller and smaller this gave other groups a chance to earn their keep.
With waves of waves of new Chinese immigrants, New Yorks Chinatown grew rapidly, and with the help of the Chinese Tong Organizations the Chinese were able to swoop in and make a huge profit on illegal business.
The two tongs that really went at it were the On Leong and the Hip Sing. Both Tongs would use street gangs as their muscle, which they referred to as their “hatchet men”.
With most of the heat on the Chinese gangs, no one was really paying attention to another group of immigrants that was also growing in numbers.
The Vietnamese immigrants were growing faster as well, and it only made sense that they too wanted a piece of the pie. With this came the birth of the Born To Kill gang. A group of Vietnamese youth that would muscle their way into the streets of chinatown, in real bloody fashion.
The Rise of the BTK gang
BTK was founded by Tho Hoang “David” Thai. A Saigon born 1st generation Vietnamese immigrant that came to the United States as a refugee.
David first landed in Lafayette, Indiana where he started his life in a small home for boys owned by a Lutheran church. He realized that, this life wasn’t for him, he fled on a bus to New York City to find something new.
In New York, David struggled with many different jobs until he realized again that this wasn’t for him. David met a fellow Vietnamese woman who was also a refugee.
Struggling to make ends meet for his new family, he knew he needed to do something else to provide. This is when he turned to New Yorks underworld to search for a new source of income for his family.
It was at this time David joined the Flying Dragons which had a Vietnamese chapter, which was a lot smaller than their Chinese counter part.
Again David realized this wasn’t for him, it was at this point he was able to establish a very lucrative business in counterfeit watches.
This business made him a lot of money, which he was able to use to help fellow Vietnamese youth. The money he made was used as a bartering chip to recruit these young men to his new gang.
At the same time, law enforcement was really cracking down on the Chinese gangs and Tongs in Chinatown. The ghost shadows as well as the Flying Dragons were getting taken down from racketeering charges.
Using the money David Thai was making with his watch business, he was able to start Born To Kill. Thai took over Canal Street and made it his home base of illegal operation. Canal Street was already home to a gang called the Canal Boys, this gang would later merge in with Davids crew to become Born To Kill.
Born To Kill Time
With most of the Chinese gangs out of the picture now, it was BTK’s time to shine. With most of the muscle out of Chinatown now gone, the Triads and the Tongs needed help on the street level. They turned to BTK to get organized on the streets.
Just like before, this was not part of Davids plan so he again, turned his back on them and even sometimes challenged them.
BTK would work on its own and extort all the business on Canal street, they would even operate brothels which he operated in conjunction with the American Mafia.
This would continue, and BTK would build their reputation as one of the most violent street gangs in Chinatown over turf wars with the Chinese gangs.