YREKA, Calif. — Calls for justice rang out in front of the Siskiyou County courthouse as the county's Hmong community asked for accountability in the death of a 35-year-old Hmong man shot by police during a confrontation outside of the Mount Shasta Vista Subdivision at the end of June.
At the rally today, attorney Bruce Margolin announced a federal lawsuit has been filed against the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, among others. The lawsuit claims they violated the fourteenth (due process, equal protection) and fourth (unlawful search and seizure) amendments.
Hundreds gathered outside the courthouse on Saturday for the vigil for the Hmong man identified by the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office as Soobleej Kaub Haej on Thursday.
Among them, 33-year-old Zurg Xiong, a Hmong man who pledged to go on a hunger strike in front of the Siskiyou County courthouse during a July 6 protest. Xiong is now on the twelfth day of his hunger strike, according to supporters. Attendees of the rally were asked to avoid bringing food or snacks to the event in honor of Xiong's mission.
The rally drew attention from Hmong leaders around the country. According to organizers, the event will feature guest speaker Mai Vang, a member of the Sacramento City council; activist Tou Ger Xiong from Minnesota; and Hmong singer and songwriter Tsabmim Xyooj.
St. Paul, Minnesota city council members Nelsie Yang and Dai Thao also joined the call for action on Friday. California and Minnesota host the largest Hmong populations in the U.S.
“There needs to be accountability. The Sheriff’s Office made a mistake by killing an innocent man in front of his wife and 3 kids," said Thao in a statement. "It’s horrifying, shameful and a major blunder. He and his department should be held accountable. The sheriff and his department can’t be judge, jury and executioner. This will only further drift the relationship between the community and law enforcement.”
The St. Paul civic leaders laid out a list of demands for Siskiyou County authorities that the rally hopes to emphasize. They are asking that law enforcement release all body or dashcam footage from the fatal shooting, in addition to holding the officers involved accountable for "unnecessary use of force."
Members of the Hmong community claim that officers fired dozens of rounds at Hawj during the deadly encounter — often saying that as many as 60 shots were fired. The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office has not addressed particulars in the case beyond a relatively brief initial statement and a follow-up that identified Hawj, citing the ongoing DA investigation.
Thao and Yang also said that they demand charges be dropped against 14 Hmong men arrested for entering the Lava Fire evacuation zone, an investigation be launched into claims that CalFire dumped Hmong water supplies, and the ordinances on water shipping into the Mount Shasta Vista area be rescinded.
Finally, the two council members called for a transparent and external investigation into Siskiyou County authorities for "corruption, racial profiling and racially motivated water restriction ordinances that unfairly target the Hmong community."