Htoo Baw escaped his war-torn homeland of Myanmar and then a Thai refugee camp in search of a better life for his three daughters.
He thought he’d finally found safety and opportunity when his family arrived in St. Paul seven years ago. “He wanted his daughters to come here to have an education,” said daughter Ehgay Poe, 23.
More than 100 family and friends gathered Saturday morning to celebrate the life and mourn the sudden death of the 54-year-old Karen immigrant who was gunned down Monday night in front of his East St. Paul home.
Family said he was unloading his car after a road trip. His 15-year-old daughter heard the shot around 9:30 p.m., ran to an upstairs window and saw someone fleeing the scene on foot, according to family members.
St. Paul Police continue to investigate the shooting in the 700 block of Orange Avenue E., as well as a second shooting in that same neighborhood on the same night. A little after 9 p.m., Issac O. Maiden, an alleged gang member acquitted in the near-fatal beating of Ray Widstrand in St. Paul in 2013, was shot in the arm a few blocks away.
Officers canvassed the neighborhood the day after the shootings, but there have been no arrests, said St. Paul Police Cmdr. Steve Frazer. Baw’s family said police have revealed little about the investigation, but Poe said it could have been a robbery.
During the service at Bradshaw Funeral Home on Saturday, family and friends said prayers and sang hymns in Baw’s honor.
His wife, Annita Thaw, and Poe shared his life story.
Baw, the son of farmers, was born in Burma, now known as Myanmar. He fled the civil war that long has rocked that country. He met his wife in a Thai refugee camp, and they have three daughters, 29, 23 and 15.
After immigrating to the United States, his wife and kids stayed in St. Paul while Baw worked at a meatpacking plant in southern Iowa.
Baw was injured in a car accident around 2010 and received disability benefits. He doted on his children and grandchildren. He woke up every morning and cooked the family meal.
“I feel proud. He is the best father. He didn’t complain,” said Poe, sitting with her mother and her 1-year-old son, Mario.
Becoming an American was important to Baw, so he and his youngest daughter became citizens, Poe said.
The family lived with relatives for many years before Baw moved his wife, kids and grandkids to the rental house on Orange Avenue in November 2014.
“He wanted to keep our family together,” Poe said.
She said the neighborhood felt safe but there were two instances when rocks were thrown through windows at the house.
“After this we don’t feel safe. We are going to move,” Poe said.