A Minneapolis man was charged with two felony counts Thursday in connection with the accidental fatal shooting of his toddler son by a 4-year-old sibling who was playing with one of his father's eight guns.
The irresponsibility with which Kao Chongsua Xiong handled and stored his guns and ample ammunition in a houseful of children justified second-degree manslaughter and child endangerment charges, authorities said. Xiong's arrest on Thursday came more than three weeks after his son, 2-year-old Neegnco Xiong, was killed.
"It's hard to charge a case in which the defendant has already suffered probably the most serious tragic condition known to parenthood: the loss of a child," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "And yet we have rules, and the rules about having locked guns and unloaded guns and safeties on guns and guns that aren't available to kids are good laws. And they've got to be enforced."
Xiong, 31, who remains in the Hennepin County jail, is expected to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon. The charges came less than two weeks after Lue Xiong of St. Paul was sentenced to two years' probation after his 2-year-old son suffered a gunshot wound as his 9-year-old brother played with his father's gun last August. Lue Xiong, who pleaded guilty to negligent storage of a loaded firearm within access of a child, stored a loaded gun in a file cabinet at home.
During a news conference Thursday announcing the charges against Kao Xiong, Assistant Police Chief Matt Clark said these accidents can be prevented by teaching kids what to do when they encounter a gun, "but also with the understanding that if you are a gun owner, you will secure your weapon."
According to charges, police determined that the semi-automatic pistol used in the shooting had seven live cartridges, with an extra magazine in the holster. The safety device was missing.
Guns throughout the home
In an interview earlier this month, Xiong, a vocational rehabilitation counselor at Goodwill/Easter Seals in St. Paul, said he thought the gun had been adequately hidden.
"This changes my life. I can't imagine this terrible thing would happen to me," he said.
According to charges:
On Dec. 5, police and paramedics arrived at the home at 1907 7th St. S., where they found Neegnco mortally wounded. Kao Xiong told police he and his wife were on the first floor preparing lunch when they heard a shot, and found Neegnco on the upstairs bed and his 4-year-old brother under the bed. They called 911.
A 5-year-old son was at kindergarten at the time and a 1-year-old was asleep in the children's bedroom.
In addition to the gun used in the shooting, police seized three semi-automatic pistols, a semi-automatic rifle and three bolt-action rifles.
The guns were found throughout the two-bedroom home, including in taped boxes in a laundry basket, in a cabinet, and in a duffel bag containing diapers on a closet floor.
Some were in cases, some were not. Police also found holsters and a "significant" amount of ammunition.
The 4-year-old told authorities "that his daddy has big guns and small guns and shoots deer."
The boy added that he had seen the guns and knew they were in the closet and that "his daddy hid the little gun on the big bed."
Prison term possible
Xiong told police that his wife and children live at the south Minneapolis address, but that he lives with his brothers in north Minneapolis.
He said he stayed at his wife's house the night before the shooting and brought the handgun with him in his holster, tucking it into his shirt so the children would not see it.
Xiong, who had a permit to carry the firearm, said he could not take the gun to work, so he tucked it into the bed, where he had never put it before.
However, Ma Vang told police that her husband regularly stored the gun between the bed and the mattress, but that there were no other guns in the house.
The charges carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, but Freeman said it was too early to say whether Xiong could serve prison time.
He appears to have no criminal record. Freeman expressed sympathy for the family's situation, but said the charges weren't just about punishment.
"I can't imagine losing a child through your gross and reckless disregard for that child's safety," Freeman said. "There's no penalty that can match that, and we're not trying to match it. But we need to send a symbol so other people don't do this."
Staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report. Abby Simons • 612-673-4921