Ker Vang, 19, a respectful young man in Sacramento who had never been in trouble with the law, was the first of four casualties in a wave of gang-related killings that have shattered Hmong communities throughout central California, reports the Sacramento Bee. At least eight Hmong have been killed since November, including several apparently innocent victims such as Vang. Authorities believe Vang might have been mistaken for a relative with gang ties who drives an almost identical car.
The escalating violence has paralyzed Hmong families in Sacramento. Many are afraid to let their teenagers out of the house, even to go shopping. Some community leaders suspect parents aren’t telling police what they know, and may be encouraging their children to seek revenge, rather than bringing problems to the leaders of the 18 Hmong clans who for centuries have resolved family feuds by consensus. The upsurge in shootings is the bitter fruit of an aggressive campaign by Hmong gangs to recruit kids as young as 11, said Neng Vang of Hmong Organizing for Change, a Sacramento parents group. The group interviewed more than 500 Hmong families over the past two years and found nearly all had at least one relative in the gang life. Three things set Hmong gangsters apart from other gangbangers, experts say: Most come from two-parent homes with successful siblings; many are capable students; and despite a rise in meth use and prostitution, the gang violence rarely is motivated by profit.