COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. – Two men were shot dead as they fled members of a Hmong gang after a confrontation at a pool hall Thursday night, authorities said. Four other young men were wounded.
Capt. Bob Aldrich of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said six suspects were arrested. The Minnesota Gang Strike Force was familiar with them, he said.
All six were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and with aiding and abetting attempted second-degree murder.
The dead were identified as Tashi Sonam Jagottsang, 21, of St. Anthony, and Bunsean Lieng, 19, of Minneapolis.
The trouble apparently started Thursday evening when gang members mistook a group of unarmed Tibetan Chinese, and one Cambodian, for another Asian gang, Aldrich said.
The Tibetan group entered Jimmy’s Pro Billiards about 9:30 p.m. Thursday and were confronted by Hmong gang members who spoke English, but used “gang speak” the Tibetans didn’t understand, Aldrich said.
He said the Tibetan group wasn’t looking for trouble, but someone made a call and soon another carload of Tibetans arrived at the pool hall. There was a confrontation and soon both groups grabbed pool cues and balls, Aldrich said.
The Tibetans eventually fled through the back door into an alley with the Hmong in pursuit, firing dozens of shots. A 9 mm pistol was recovered, Aldrich said.
Authorities found one victim in a nearby parking ramp while the other was near the alley. Four other Tibetan men were wounded and found two blocks from the pool hall.
The suspects were identified as: Grogan Yang, 18, of Brooklyn Park,; Charles Yang, 20, of Brooklyn Park; Sai Vang, 19, of Coon Rapids; Jason Moua, 24, of Minneapolis; Meng Vang, 24, of Minneapolis; and Helene Yang, 23, of Minneapolis.
The four wounded victims were identified as: Tenzin Tenpa, 21; Tenzin Tsondu, 22; Tenzin Choegyal, age unknown; and Tenzin Phelgye Woeser, 21. Tsondu is from Minneapolis; authorities didn’t immediately have the residences of the others.
Initial reports said the Tibetans were part of a gang, but authorities later said that wasn’t true. Ron Ryan, commander of the Minnesota Gang Strike Force, said there were no Tibetan gangs in the state.
Allen Olson, who was playing pool at the time, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he saw two groups of people begin bickering. Pool hall employees told them to take it outside.
“We heard a sound like whoosh,” he said. “We thought it was glass breaking. But it was gunshots.”
When he ran out to investigate, “these three guys were standing with guns pulled,” he said. He saw one man fall. Two others got in a car and drove off, he said.
Annie Vang and Tida Lee told the newspaper they were playing pool when 15 to 20 people started throwing balls and cue sticks at each other. The women retreated to the relative safety of the back of the pool hall.
Nick Wiczawski, 19, told the newspaper he heard at least eight gunshots.