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California Hmong in Mourning After Deadly Attack

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Members of the ethnic Hmong community in Fresno, California are in mourning after gunmen shot 10 men killing four over the weekend.

Police said at least two men armed with semi-automatic handguns entered the backyard of a house and started shooting into a crowd. About 16 men had gathered there to watch a football game on television. The gunmen did not speak, and no one had a good look at them. Police said witnesses only saw flashes of gunfire in the dark.

Sunday evening's attack killed Xy Lee, a popular Hmong singer and musician. His YouTube videos have been viewed millions of times. Also killed were Phia Vang, Kou Xiong, and Kalaxang Thao. Officials said six were wounded including three in serious condition. Women and children inside the house were not hit.

Pao Yang is head of the Fresno Center, a Hmong community group. He said, "Our community is in mourning, and we still don't know what's going on, or who are the suspects."

On Xy Lee's YouTube channel, one fan wrote, "We will miss you so, so, so much brother Xy. Rest well. We will meet again." Another added, "Your songs hit hard this time around. RIP brother."

Paula Yang is a friend of the homeowner, whose brother, Kou Xiong, died in the attack. She said the shooting has many in the community fearful.

Yang said, "Even right now, families are gathering inside saying, what can we do to protect our home from this day forward?"

The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountain areas separating Laos and Vietnam. Many fled after fighting alongside the United States during the Vietnam War. The 2017 census estimates about 300,000 Hmong live in the U.S., including 25,000 in Fresno.

Fresno police Investigator Brooke Passmore, left, works on the driveway on Lamona Avenue where a shooting took place at a house party which involved multiple fatalities and injuries in Fresno, Calif., Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
Fresno police Investigator Brooke Passmore, left, works on the driveway on Lamona Avenue where a shooting took place at a house party which involved multiple fatalities and injuries in Fresno, Calif., Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

The Fresno police chief said, "This is truly a good group of people who were simply having a party." However, the police are investigating whether the shooting was connected to a recent "disturbance" involving some of the people at the party.

While they had not found any gang connections to the victims, Fresno police are concerned about the possibility of retaliation or more violence ahead of the Hmong New Year. The celebration comes the week after Christmas and draws thousands of Hmong to Fresno.

Police said there have been 11 violent incidents related to Asian gangs in Fresno this year, three of them in November.

The Fresno shooting was also the third mass shooting in four days in California.

Last Thursday, a 16-year-old boy killed two students and wounded three others at his high school in Santa Clarita, near Los Angeles, before killing himself.

On Saturday, a San Diego man shot and killed his wife and three of their sons before killing himself. A fourth son was on life-support.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do adapted this AP story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

disturbance –n. noisy or violent behavior, especially in public

gang –n. a group that is involved in criminal activities

retaliation –n. something done in response to being hurt or mistreated, revenge

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