FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Seven gang members were charged Thursday in state and federal court in the shooting deaths of four men at a backyard party in California, prosecutors said.
The victims were killed Nov. 17 when gunmen entered the yard of a Fresno home through an unlocked gate and used semiautomatic weapons to open fire on people watching a Sunday night football game. Four men were killed and six other people were wounded.
Police said the suspects all acknowledge being members of the Mongolian Boys Society and that the shooting was intended as retaliation for the death of one of their gang members. However, investigators do not believe any of the victims were members of a rival gang and say they were mistakenly targeted.
Billy Xiong, 25, Ger Lee, 27, Anthony Montes, 27, and Porge Kue, 26, were each charged with multiple counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and premeditated murder, the Fresno County district attorney’s office said.
They could face life in prison if convicted of the charges. District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said prosecutors were considering whether to pursue the death penalty.
Montes, Kue and Xiong were scheduled to be arraigned Friday. Lee was being held in Minnesota and will be extradited to Fresno to face the charges.
Three other people suspected of acting as lookouts were charged in federal court with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Pao Vang, 30, Jhovanny Delgado, 19, and Johnny Xiong, 25, could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted, the U.S. attorney’s pffice said.
“My guy has never even been arrested,” Gerald Schwab, and attorney for Johnny Xiong, told the Fresno Bee. “He has no prior criminal history and limited gang involvement. He was the least involved in this thing.”
All the victims were of Hmong descent and the shooting rattled the central California city, home of the second-largest Hmong community in the U.S.
Hmong, an ethnic minority group from East and Southeast Asia, fought on the side of the U.S. in the Vietnam War. After the war, the U.S. moved them to places in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin.
In California, Hmong settled in Fresno and the Central Valley, where sponsors hoped they could find work given their agricultural background.