Sharp intelligence and a ferocious will to survive helped Dr. Haing Ngor elude death when the nefarious Khmer Rouge swept through Cambodia in the 1970s, imprisoning and killing perceived enemies of the brutal Pol Pot regime.
After being tortured, sent to work camps and watching hundreds of people get put to death, Ngor escaped to the United States in 1980, settling in Los Angeles and working with refugees.
His life took another fateful turn when he landed a lead role in the 1984 movie The Killing Fields, about the Cambodian genocide he’d survived. In 1985, Ngor won an Oscar for that film, and during his speech for Best Supporting Actor, he thanked the Warner Bros. studio for letting “the world know what happened in my country.”
With his newfound fame and international platform, Ngor became an outspoken critic of the Pol Pot regime that had unleashed horror upon millions of innocent people, including Ngor’s beloved wife, who had died in his arms.
In 1996, when Ngor was gunned down in a Los Angeles alley outside his apartment, many were left to wonder: Was the shooting a random act, or a revenge hit from U.S. affiliates of the deadly Khmer Rouge?
These questions and more are examined in the next episode of People Magazine Investigates, airing at 10 p.m. on Monday on Investigation Discovery. An exclusive clip is above.
The Los Angeles Police Department began investigating Ngor’s murder, believing it could have been a political assassination.
Whoever shot Ngor had left his Mercedes – as well as $2900 of cash in his jacket and $800 in his pants pocket – behind. But the case took a new turn when Ngor’s niece asked for the whereabouts of two of his most prized possessions: a Rolex watch and a locket that held a picture of his beloved wife.
“He never, ever took it off,” now-retired Det. Sgt. John Garcia of the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division says of the necklace, which detectives were able to prove Ngor was wearing on the night of the murder.
What other clues would be laid out in the investigation of Ngor’s tragic killing?
People Magazine Investigates: Killing Fields in the City of Angels airs Monday, December2, at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.