Guilty plea in shooting that killed owner of St. Paul's Malina's Sports Bar

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2014 - 12:46 PM

But he disputed details of St. Paul bar owner Vone Moua’s death.

It was a simple dispute over 20 bucks and a game of pool.

But amid the tension bubbling up at Malina’s Sports Bar that morning last June, it was enough to get Vone Moua killed.

On Tuesday, eight months after the 45-year-old St. Paul bar owner was fatally shot at the pub he ran in the city’s Frogtown neighborhood, one of two men accused in his death testified that he pulled the trigger on the handgun used to shoot Moua in the head.

But even as Cheng Vang, 23, pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree attempted murder for killing Moua and wounding two other men that morning, he disputed important details of what allegedly happened.

At one point Tuesday, under questioning from prosecutor Dawn Bakst, Vang testified through an interpreter that he shot Moua in the head from a distance of 4 feet after Moua and two other men strangled him as they removed him from the bar.

But Bakst wasn’t buying Vang’s story.

Did you press the handgun to Moua’s head? she asked.

“I did not,” Vang said through an interpreter.

But Moua’s wound and the presence of gunpowder suggested that the muzzle was pressed into his skin, Bakst argued.

Vang backed off, saying that he would not dispute the medical examiner’s findings.

Later, under questioning from his attorney, Patricia Hughes, Vang admitted that he saw autopsy photos that showed what could be the imprint of a gun muzzle on Moua’s head.

Heated words, shoving match

Moua, who was also a social worker, owned and operated the bar with his wife at 693 Dale St. N. for at least 10 years.

According to a criminal complaint, the shooting took place early the morning of June 9 after Moua told Vang’s brother-in-law, Yia Her, that he couldn’t continue playing pool after closing time and refused to refund his money.

Her left the bar, but later returned, pounding on a locked door. Moua then gave a waitress permission to open the door to Her and Vang, the complaint said.

After words were exchanged, Moua and Her got into a shoving match. Other bar employees and customers joined in and pushed Her to the door. At that point, the complaint said, witnesses said Vang shot Moua in the head.

Vang testified Tuesday that he and his brother-in-law went to the bar around midnight.

He said he later left but returned when Her called him about 2:15 a.m. and asked him to come back to the bar with his handgun, which Vang kept in his car.

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