Angry that someone fatally stabbed a fellow gang member’s brother in February 2013, a St. Paul man retaliated eight months later, firing a dozen gunshots at a rival, killing him and wounding two other people, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Testimony began Thursday in the trial of True Thao, 31, who allegedly killed Adlai Xiong, 27, Oct. 26 outside the Moonshine Saloon on St. Paul’s East Side.
Thao faces 14 counts in Ramsey County District Court, including two counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in the first and second degree. He also faces several charges of crime committed for the benefit of a gang.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin said that Thao is a member of the Oriental Ruthless Boys gang, while Xiong was a member of the Oroville Mono Boys gang.
In February 2013, a man with connections to Thao’s gang was fatally stabbed outside the Moonshine Saloon, so when Thao saw Xiong there in October, he fought back, she said. The February murder of Cher Vang, 28, remains unsolved, and there is nothing to show that Xiong or the two people wounded in October — both cousins of Xiong — were involved.
“If someone does something to you … you retaliate,” Lamin said of Thao’s motivation. “You don’t back down.”
The case’s violence made an early debut when police officers had to keep Xiong’s and Thao’s family members and friends on separate floors during jury selection earlier in the week. Then midday Thursday, after opening statements and some testimony, Ramsey County District Judge Judith Tilsen asked sheriff’s deputies to keep an eye on four teenage boys and two older men who were sitting in the front row in support of Thao.
“They were staring down the witness,” Tilsen said.
About three dozen supporters packed the courtroom for both Thao and Xiong.
Thao’s attorney, Gary Wolf, told jurors that two witnesses told police that the shooter was bald or had a buzz-cut, while Thao had a short, spiky haircut. Both witnesses also said they could identify the shooter, but failed to pick Thao out of a photo lineup, Wolf said.
Thao wore glasses, which was not included in their descriptions, he said.
“You still won’t know who did the shooting … and that is reasonable doubt,” Wolf said.
Lamin said Thao learned at the bar that Xiong was a rival gang member. Thao then left the bar and drove his car down Duluth Street as Xiong and his two cousins smoked outside.
Thao fired a dozen times about 1:15 a.m., Lamin said, striking Xiong in the head, left leg and left thigh.
Testimony resumes Friday.