Minneapolis police apologize for raid that led to gunfire

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2007 - 12:52 AM

Sunday's high-risk search by Minneapolis police of a house on the city's North Side was to be one of the last pieces in a long-term investigation focused on violent gang members.

But minutes after a SWAT team entered the house about 12:30 a.m., things went awry. The homeowner, a father of six, thinking the intruders were burglars, fired at them through a bedroom wall. He hit two officers, one in the back and one in the head, but both were uninjured because they were wearing protective armor. Police shot back, but did not hit him.

Hours later, police officials were apologizing to the homeowner, Vang Khang, admitting that they had erred based on bad information from an informant.

That informant was the alleged victim of a violent crime at a house, which is in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue N.

Police said they had no reason to believe the information was inaccurate. They had the right address on the warrant, but the house wasn't occupied by anybody they wanted.

The case will be reviewed by the Hennepin County attorney's office, but authorities said it's doubtful that Khang will be charged with any crime.

"We've apologized to the family, and the city is making every effort to repair any damages to his home as quickly as possible," said Lt. Amelia Huffman, head of the homicide unit.

Huffman's unit, as well as the internal affairs unit, also will review the case.

Gang members sought

The search warrant police were working with was part of an investigation by the department's Violent Offender Task Force, which typically goes after the most violent gang members and drug dealers. In the past two years, the investigation has dismantled at least three violent gangs, with several suspects arrested and many weapons seized.

The warrant was typical for this kind of investigation, Huffman said. It was designated high-risk and "no knock" because officers expected to find weapons, which is why a SWAT team was involved.

When police entered, the officers called out, "Police!" as they searched the home's first floor. They didn't find anybody, so went to the second floor. At a small landing at the top of the stairs, they again shouted, "Police!" Huffman said.

Shots came through the walls and doors as officers searched two bedrooms, police said. It was Khang, 34, shooting from a third bedroom.

There were children in the other bedrooms, and the officers quickly realized there was a language barrier. The older children were able to communicate to their father that police were in the house and to stop shooting, Huffman said.

All six of the family's children, who range in age from 3 to 15, were home at the time.

Khang's wife, Yee Moua, said she was watching TV on the first floor when she heard voices and windows breaking. She ran upstairs to tell her husband.

Khang said he grabbed a gun from a closet and fired three shots. When his sons yelled at him that the intruders were police, he put down his gun and put his hands in the air.

"The whole family is badly shaken and still trying to understand what happened," Moua said.

After police interviewed Khang's family, it became clear they had no connection to the case, Huffman said. But the address listed on the warrant was the one police had gotten from the informant.

"This house was part of a package of very credible information that resulted in other successful enforcement actions," she said. "This was the end of a chain of things, and there was no reason to question the credibility of the information."

All relieved no one was hurt

On Monday, officers involved in the shootout were on paid administrative leave, standard in such cases.

Meanwhile, the Khangs' back door and several windows were boarded up.

Ron Edwards, co-chairman of the Police Community Relations Council, questioned what police do when informants pass on bad information.

"It wasn't a very pleasant situation up there," he said. "I'm glad police had all that protective armor on. With so many children inside, it was lucky nobody was injued."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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