Another gang member found guilty in slaying of Tibetans at pool hall

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2007 - 7:16 PM

A jury convicted a Menace of Destruction member on all counts related to the 2005 Columbia Heights shootings.

An eighth person associated with the Menace of Destruction gang was convicted Wednesday of involvement in a shooting melee that left two dead and four injured outside a Columbia Heights pool hall in February 2005.

After a four-week trial and about 22 hours of deliberation, an Anoka County jury convicted Meng Vang, 27, of all 12 counts against him. He was charged with abetting fellow gang members who fired at a group of fleeing Tibetans, killing two and wounding four. Six of the counts were for crimes benefiting a gang.

The state will seek consecutive sentences totaling 126 years when Vang is sentenced Dec. 19 by Judge Sharon Hall, said co-prosecutor Michelle Davis. That same total sentence was imposed on the only other gang member to go to trial, Charles Yang, convicted of the same 12 counts in October 2006.

"We are pleased with the outcome," said co-prosecutor Nancy Norman.

The gang, made up of Hmong members, mistakenly thought some Tibetans were a rival gang and started fighting them in Jimmy's Pro Billiards on the night of Feb. 3, 2005. When gang members pulled guns, the Tibetans fled out the back door into an alley, where the gang fired more than 20 shots at them.

Prosecutors said that at about 10 p.m. in a parking ramp behind the pool hall, Vang shot Bunsean Lieng, 19, in the back of his head as he gripped a pool stick.

"It was a night of accomplishment for Meng Vang and the MOD gang," Norman told jurors during closing arguments Friday. "You don't mess with the MOD. They sent that message loud and clear."

Norman said Vang was the one who left the pool hall to retrieve handguns from a red car that night and returned to arm fellow gang members. "He cornered Bunsean Lieng as he ran away into the parking ramp," Norman said. "He fired at Lieng many times and saw him fall to the ground."

Then Vang jumped into a black Honda with two others and sped out of the ramp. Alerted by 911 callers, police stopped the car, windows open, a few blocks away. The Honda had passed a snowbank on 40th Avenue, where police found a 9mm semiautomatic handgun used to kill Lieng.

Public defender Scott Belfry told jurors that several eyewitnesses gave conflicting accounts about seeing Vang shoot Lieng. He said one witness was not credible because she was trying to protect her husband, gang member Jason Moua, who drove the black Honda that carried her and Vang from the scene.

Belfry claimed that Moua shot Lieng in the parking ramp.

But prosecutor Davis reminded the jury that another Tibetan witness said he looked out the back door of the pool hall and saw a woman running in the parking ramp toward a car and away from his friend Lieng. Then that witness said a man standing by the passenger side of the car raised his hand and shot Lieng.

Seconds later police stopped the black Honda and found Vang in the back seat, Davis noted.

Besides the Vang and Yang jury convictions, six others have made plea bargains and one has a trial date in January.

Vang and Yang were each charged and convicted of two counts of abetting first-degree murder in the deaths of Lieng and Tashi Jaggottsang, four counts of abetting attempted murder and six more counts of doing the same crimes to benefit a gang.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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