Attorney questions findings in shooting death of Hmong farmer

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Photo courtesy of Manuel Ortiz

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

An attorney for the Asian Law Caucus expressed skepticism about the impartiality of an investigation into the shooting death of Hmong American farmer Soobleej Kaub Hawj.

The District Attorney in Siskiyou County at the California-Oregon border cleared four police officers involved in that shooting.

Hawj’s death sparked huge protests by the Asian American community last summer who alleged officers shot Hawj while he tried to escape a wildfire. A claim filed by Hawj’s family against the county remains pending.

“I don’t have a tremendous amount of confidence in DA investigations. And that’s not specific to the Siskiyou,” said Glenn Katon of Advancing Just-Asian Law Caucus during an interview with AsAmNews. “DAs are much more apt to look for ways to exculpate police officers who shoot and kill people. And that’s the impression that we’ve gotten of this DA’s office and this county. They are not neutral observers to the harassment and targeting of Hmong people and Asians, but they are actively involved in it.”

The determination by the DA comes amidst continued concern about rising anti-Asian hate.

In announcing his decision, District Attorney Kirk Andrus wrote in a letter that Hawj tried to enter the evacuation zone and ignored requests to go in the other direction. He said Officer Stacher “heard officers yelling at Haw] to stop and then saw the pickup driving directly toward him. Etna Police Department Officer Buell described, “we were all waving our ams” to get Hawj to stop. Officer Stacher immediately threw up his hands, yelling “stop, stop, stop!” Officer Stacher made eye contact with Hawj, who continued to drive toward him, getting close enough that the officer could touch the truck.”

Officer Stacher said he saw Hawj grab his pistol as they were six feet apart and said he could see the barrel of the .45 “pointing directly at me.” Stacher was certain Hawj had fired at him.

Andrus detailed how Stacher began firing on the driver’s side. Detective Machado also fired as did Officer Buell who Andrus said believed Hawj was trying to run him down with his vehicle. So did Lt. Nicholas.

They would later discover Hawj had died of three gunshot wounds to the head while in his truck. The Sacramento Bee released this video of the shooting it obtained through the Public Records Act.

Katon said “this shooting didn’t happen in a vacuum.” He pointed to recent data obtained by the Asian Law Caucus which found disproportionate enforcement of traffic stops and liens on properties connected to marijuana investigations

He says traffic stops are ten times greater for Asians in a county that is about 2.6% Asian. Siskiyou’s Asian population is predominantly Hmong with a growing Chinese population. He also says Asians make up 80% of all liens on properties.

Katon also found Asians comprise 61% of all prosecutions of water restrictions compared to just 8% for Whites despite Whites making up 75% of the county’s population.

Last summer, the Asian Law Caucus joined with the ACLU in filing a brief in support of a lawsuit that local water restrictions are enforced as a means to drive Hmong out of the area. An injunction that prevents Siskiyou County from enforcing the water restrictions is currently in place.

Courtesy: Amanda Kim

Katon emphasized that the Law Caucus does not represent the family of Hawj which has a claim pending against the county.

AsAmNews reached out to family attorney Nancy Ly for reaction, but did not hear back.

“The family is obviously disappointed that no one is going to held criminally liable for the killing of Soobleej,” she told the Kansas City Star.

“They’re looking forward to getting more answers as our investigation on the civil side continues.”

Katon believes the animosity faced by Asians in Siskiyou County from officials there is based on stereotypes and misconceptions.

“The attitude has been, you know, you’re a bunch of Asian gangs and are only here to grow cannabis. And that’s just not the way any segment of the community should be treated.”

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