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Ellicott City Double Shooting: 'He Had a Target'

An employee shares her experience standing across the window as a man was shot at an Ellicott City spa.

Chrishna López did not see the man who pulled the trigger Saturday evening, although he was standing just on the other side of the window. 

“I saw the victim. I saw the gun. I saw the shots being fired,” the hair stylist and makeup artist said, sitting in the Nail & Hair Care Spa Monday afternoon. “But I couldn’t even focus on him,” she said of the shooter, who escaped.

'I was kind of paralyzed'

On Saturday evening, around 7 p.m., when the last customers were letting their nails dry, Howard County police said a man walked up to the spa, shot a man outside and then entered the spa, .

“We didn’t see anything,” said one technician who identified herself as Lisa. “We just heard ‘bang bang.’”

López, however, did see something. She was done with work for the day. “I walked my client outside, got ice cream next door, came in, set my ice cream down and started to clean my station,” she said.

Then she heard what she said she thought were gunshots. “I said ‘Oh my god, someone is being shot.’ I grabbed my phone and went out to exit from the back door. Before I could get out of the salon, I heard gunshots being fired inside. I was kind of paralyzed.”

'He had targets'

Police say 35-year-old Tuan Minh Pham, of Beltsville, walked up to the spa and shot Phuong Thanh Do, a 40-year-old Florida man who was waiting outside for his friend, Lan Phan, a nail technician.

After shooting Do, police say Pham entered the salon and shot Phan, his estranged girlfriend, and then fled the scene. Phan, who lives in Silver Spring, had a protective order against Pham, with whom she has two children, according to police.

Neither Lisa nor López said they had any idea that Pham was having any sort of problem with an ex-boyfriend.  “Nobody knows him,” Lisa said. And López said Pham had never mentioned any problems at work.

“I find her to be very pleasant,” López said. “Very, very personally and professionally. She provides excellent customer service,” she said. She said she had never seen Phan or Do at the spa. 

After hearing gunshots inside, López said she ran to East Moon to let the restaurant employees there know that there had been a shooting. And she called 911. “The police were on the scene immediately,” she said.

On Monday afternoon, Phan was listed in “fair” condition and Do was “serious,” according to University of Maryland Shock Trauma Spokesperson Cynthia Rivers.

López said that because of the nature of the incident, no one was skittish, or afraid to return to work. "Once we thought it through and could digest ... he had targets," she said, "that kind of helped our psyche." 

"He could have shot people at random. He did not. He had a target, did what he wanted to do and left."

'Completely abnormal'

Lisa kept a wireless earpiece in her ear Monday as she did customers’ nails. Her work was frequently interrupted with phone calls. “Yes, thank you. We are fine. Thanks for calling.”

Customers called to check in, the mail carrier expressed his condolences as he dropped off the day’s packages. López, herself, was not scheduled to work, but came by to check up on everyone. 

“Everyone was extremely supportive,” she said. Just after the shooting, “Some gentlemen from a bike club, Harley riders, they aided the male victim. Passers by did not at all hesitate to help.  

“That’s the nature of our community, which is what we want people to know. Not to look at this business or what happened on Saturday as the norm; it’s not.

“It was completely abnormal.”

Police are asking the public for help finding Tuan Minh Pham, who they say left the scene in a 1998 gold or tan four-door Honda Accord, license plate 2AK0291. They are offering a $2,5000 reward for information that leads to his arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call 410-313-STOP. Callers may remain anonymous.

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