Vigil celebrates life of lawyer killed in Midtown shooting

Loved ones gather for a candlelight vigil for Trinh Huynh at the lobby of the 999 Building in Midtown Atlanta on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Huynh was shot Monday morning as she walked in Midtown. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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Loved ones gather for a candlelight vigil for Trinh Huynh at the lobby of the 999 Building in Midtown Atlanta on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Huynh was shot Monday morning as she walked in Midtown. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Hours after the suspect in a fatal Midtown shooting waived his first court appearance, friends and family of the woman who was killed gathered late Thursday to honor her.

Trinh Huynh, 40 — an Atlanta attorney known for her sense of humor and boundless energy — was shot as she walked on Peachtree Street toward the Midtown MARTA station around 7:40 a.m. Monday. Investigators believe Raylon Lee Browning approached her from behind and shot her several times, though no motive has been determined.

Friends and family gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday evening just steps away from where Huynh was killed. There, they shared memories of a remarkable woman who fled her native Vietnam as a toddler, grew up in Gainesville, attended Gainesville High School, and then reached the academic heights of Princeton University and Emory University, where she earned her law degree.

Dao Huynh traveled from San Francisco to say goodbye to the sister she called “the standard by which I measure my life.”

Their mother, Van Lam, came all the way from Vietnam. She did not speak at the vigil, nor did she attend the press conference.

Opening lightly, Dao joked that she could feel Trinh over her shoulder, “criticizing my outfit and asking me why I don’t have my speech completed.”

She thanked not only the law enforcement agencies that investigated and made an arrest, but also the bystanders on the street who didn’t turn away.

“It meant a lot to us to know our sister was not alone out there,” said Dao, the youngest of six sisters.

Dao said she still didn’t realize the full extent of all the people Trinh knew and helped. She said her sister held a secret life as a pro bono event planner who at the end of the party gathered up the food.

But she squirreled it away not for herself, but for the homeless people in the neighborhood.

Another sister, Chi Huynh Kindland, lives in Atlanta not far from where Trinh resided. Yet she said she was shocked by the extent to which Trinh strove to help others.

The mother of two said she didn’t know how Trinh found the time to inspire so many.

Dao expressed the same amazement. “I’ve been chasing her shadow for 38 years,” she said.

But the sisters want people to learn from Trinh’s example. “We can all be Trinh,” Dao said. “… It’s up to us to be each other’s glue and to be each other’s Trinh.”

When mourners first began to gather for the vigil, one handed out long-stemmed white carnations. It was still early enough that a somber mood had not yet set in, and people greeted each other with smiles and (for a moment) dry eyes.

Dan Hyunh shares a last name with Trinh, but they aren’t related. They worked together at law firm Alston and Bird.

“One of my first days was one of her last,” Huynh said.

He found out about the fatal shooting when a coworker texted him asking if “this was the same Trinh.”

A social media search turned up evidence that it was, in fact, the same woman.

“You don’t think this is going to happen to someone you know,” Dan Huynh said.

Though Joan Jordan only met Trinh Huynh last year, she met one of Trinh’s sisters about 15 years ago when they both worked at Invesco, about a mile away in Midtown.

The sisters and Jordan all went to dinner together Saturday night. Two days later, Jordan got a call from a mutual friend who told her about the shooting.

“We still don’t have an explanation,” Jordan said. “Seemed so senseless.”

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Trinh Huynh was on her way to her job at UPS that Monday morning when she was shot, according to police, who released surveillance images of the suspect.

Monday night, Browning, 39, allegedly ran a red light and was stopped by a Cobb officer who determined he was a wanted man — Browning was the suspect in a double stabbing Sunday that injured two men. Browning was held overnight in the Cobb jail, then detectives identified him Tuesday morning as the suspect in Huynh’s death.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

After being moved to the Fulton jail Tuesday, Browning's violent acts continued, according to the sheriff's office. Tuesday night he allegedly punched another inmate four times in the face and was found chewing on his own arm, incident reports showed. Deputies were forced to deploy their Tasers to stun Browning, who was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for observation. He was returned to the jail Wednesday night.

Browning waived his first court appearance Thursday morning and was being held in the jail’s medical unit for an undisclosed reason, according to a spokeswoman for the Fulton sheriff’s office.

Browning’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 20 at 9:30 a.m. on the murder and aggravated assault charges related to Huynh’s death. On April 21, he must appear in court on a simple battery charge, which was added after the fight in jail.

Visitation for Huynh will be held Saturday from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory in Gainesville.

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