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Vang Khang stood in the bedroom of his family’s North Side home, where a piece of sheetrock riddled with bullet holes had been cut out. Police mistakenly raided Khang’s home Sunday and exchanged gunfire before they realized their mistake.

David Joles, Star Tribune

A bad address, a shaken family

  • Article by: TERRY COLLINS
  • Star Tribune
  • December 19, 2007 - 12:03 AM

It's still all too vivid.

It was half past midnight Sunday. Yee Moua was comfy watching television in her living room when loud voices outside startled her.

Then came a shattering of kitchen windows, followed by a big bang.

She raced upstairs.

"Wake up! I think somebody is trying to break in!" Moua told her husband, Vang Khang. Their six children slept nearby.

Khang headed for the bedroom closet where his 12-gauge shotgun was locked up. Without the key, he pried open the closet door.

They heard footsteps on the stairs. She dialed 911 to alert the police. He let off a warning shot through the door.

He fired two more blasts. The intruders fired back.

"It's the police! Police!" their 12-year-old son shouted in Hmong.

The bullet-riddled bedroom was the scene Tuesday for the family's account of a SWAT team's errant raid on their home in north Minneapolis.

They spoke to the media just hours after Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan apologized to them personally. Dolan told family members there was "a breakdown in communication" that led cops to descend on their home of three years on the 1300 block of Logan Av. N., Khang's attorney, Sia Lo, said.

Lo considered Dolan's meeting with the Khangs on Tuesday a positive step in the healing process for the family.

Police said the team searched the wrong address because of bad information from a usually credible informant. Lo said they had been seeking a black gang member.

The warrant was part of an investigation by the department's Violent Offender Task Force, which typically goes after the most notorious gang members and drug dealers.

Lt. Amelia Huffman, head of the homicide unit, has said the search was designated high-risk and "no knock" because officers expected to find weapons, necessitating the SWAT team's involvement.

Huffman has said the officers called out "Police!" when they entered Khang's home and yelled it again on the second floor before the shootout began.

Seven officers were placed on paid administrative leave while the incident is under investigation.

One expert said such mistakes by police do occur.

"Does going to the wrong address happen from time to time? Yes," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association in Doylestown, Pa.

"Do you corroborate as best you can the information the informant gives you? Absolutely. But still, from time to time, mistakes are made."

Last year in Atlanta, police killed a 92-year-old woman after she shot at presumed intruders. Police had gone to her house on a drug raid, but no drugs were found.

The incident led to a shake-up in that department: Two officers pleaded guilty to manslaughter and civil rights charges, and the city faces at least two lawsuits.

Six children were at home

In Minneapolis, no charges have been brought against Khang, 34, a recently laid-off machine operator.

Accompanied by Hmong community leaders, Lo said Tuesday that Khang shot first, but only in self-defense. Khang said he would never knowingly shoot at the police.

He shot two officers, one in the back and one in the head. They were not injured because they wore protective armor.

The family's six children, ranging in age from 3 to 15, were in the house at the time.

"Things could've been very tragic," said Khang, who uses his shotgun for hunting. "Maybe there were spirits watching over us."

Lo, who provided some interpreting for Khang, said the family is still shaken and will be staying with relatives until the house is cleaned up.

"I think it will be very difficult for the children right now to come back at this time," Lo said.

As far as pursuing legal action, Lo said the family will weigh its options, sort through the facts and "figure out what happens next."

Members of the Hmong community videotaped the Khang family's meeting with Dolan for documentation, said Xang Vang, executive director of the Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association in Minneapolis.

Moua said her family was pleased to meet Dolan, but the anguish remains.

"I'm glad he talked to us, apologized and said he was willing to help us," Moua, 29, said. "But nothing will be the same again. Nothing can change what happened."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Terry Collins • 612-673-1790

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