Friends remember shooting victim as strong, generous

Police arrest homeless man for using Cheung’s debit card; no murder charges filed yet in gay man’s death

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Aaron Cheung
Aaron Cheung

Aaron Cheung was remembered this week as a strong, outspoken, caring person who was living his dream of owning a restaurant.

Cheung, 27, was found shot to death in the backseat of his car outside a condo in northeast Dallas in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 12.

Dallas police say the motive for the crime was robbery, and they have no reason to believe Cheung’s sexual orientation was a factor.

On Wednesday, DPD arrested a homeless man who they say used Cheung’s debit card at a downtown 7-Eleven after the murder

Charles Edward Freeman, 58, is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information, a felony, and was being held on $50,000 bail. As of Thursday morning, Dec. 16, Freeman was considered a “person of interest” but had not been charged in Cheung’s robbery and murder.

Cheung was a founding member of Fuse, the LGBT young men’s group at Resource Center Dallas, according to his close friend Alex Ortega. Cheung also once served on the youth board at Youth First Texas.

But for the last few years, Ortega said, Cheung devoted most of his time to Bacon and Friends, his restaurant in Mesquite.

“That was his dream,” said Ortega, who worked at the restaurant last summer. “His passion was food. He was always talking about watching Food Network and then trying different things. He was just really creative and a real people person. He had so many regulars, and they all asked for him. … He was very meticulous about the food, and people just really gravitated to that, all the effort he put into everything. It was always busy.”

Cheung had just gotten home from work at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and was retrieving a box from the backseat of his car outside a condo he shared with his parents in the 8100 block of Skillman Road when he was shot, according to police. The suspect ambushed Cheung from behind and shot him once in the head before making off with his wallet and several hundred dollars in cash.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, police released surveillance video from a 7-Eleven on Commerce Street, showing a short, older black man with a limp using Cheung’s debit card to purchase cigarettes and chicken wings.

Freeman was arrested at the Bridge, a homeless shelter, after people there recognized him from the surveillance video.

Police say Freeman fits the description of a man who was seen by a witness fleeing the area of Cheung’s murder.

“It’s going to take some forensic evidence before they can list him as a suspect,” DPD spokesman Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said Thursday morning.

“They’re still looking at him as a person of interest.”

Ortega said he was glad that police appeared close to solving the crime.

“He was the strong one of the people I knew and hung out with,” Ortega said of Cheung. “You’d never think anything would hurt him, so it was just a complete shock. He’s from the East Coast, originally from New York. He was really tough and outspoken.

“He had a lot of street smarts, and you would never think this would happen to him, ever.”

A memorial service for Cheung was held Thursday afternoon in Rowlett.

Ortega said Cheung was an only child and he hoped the service would help his parents cope.

“I think it’s a really good thing for his family to be able to see how many people he affected,” Ortega said. “He really did do a lot for people who were in his life. If he cared about you, he would give you the world.

“He would do just about anything to help you out.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Funeral services today in Rowlett for murdered gay restaurant owner Aaron Cheung

Aaron Cheung

A memorial service for Aaron Cheung, a gay restaurant owner who was found shot to death in northeast Dallas on Sunday, will be at 3 p.m. today at Resthaven Funeral Chapel, at 3761 Rowlett Road, in Rowlett.

Alex Ortega, one of Cheung’s best friends, said everyone who knew him is invited. Ortega said Cheung was an only child and he hopes the service will help his parents cope.

“I think it’s a really good thing for his family to be able to see how many people he affected,” Ortega said. “He really did do a lot for people who were in his life. If he cared about you, he would give you the world. He would do just about anything to help you out.”

Meanwhile, authorities say the homeless man arrested for using Cheung’s debit card remains a “person of interest” in his murder. Charles Edward Freeman, 58, is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information and is being held on $50,000 bail.

“There’s not enough evidence to list him as a suspect,” said Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD. “It’s going to take some forensic evidence before they can list him as a suspect.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Dallas Police Department’s homicide unit at 214-671-3661.

—  John Wright

Photos of suspect in gay man’s murder

These are screen grabs taken from surveillance video provided by the Dallas Police Department. The surveillance video was taken at the 7-11 at 2008 Commerce St., where the man used a debit card belonging to gay murder victim Aaron Cheung, 27. Police say the man shown is a “person of interest” in Cheung’s murder. The suspect appears to be in his 50s and stands about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, according to police. He walks with a pronounced limp. Anyone with information is asked to call the Dallas Police Homicide Unit at (214) 671-3661.

—  John Wright