A group of Hmong leaders in the Twin Cities says more needs to be done to prevent violence within their community.
A meeting Tuesday night at the Hmong Village in St. Paul came after several recent deadly cases, including a domestic dispute that left three people dead.
A translator at the meeting, Dai Thao, opened with a moment of silence.
"To remember those who lost their lives: Kong Meng Lee, Panhia Yang, Chue Lor. Thank you," Thao said.
St. Paul police believe Chue Lor killed his wife Panhia Yang and her brother Kong Meng Lee last month in a domestic dispute. Lor was also found dead. One after another, Hmong leaders last night called their deaths a terrible loss and said preventing more violence was the reason they had gathered.
"Tonight the Hmong Council wants to issue a strong statement, against domestic violence and violence in the community," said Kevin Vang, the president of the Hmong 18 Council. "We strongly condemn domestic violence and urge anyone who is experiencing it to seek help."
Vang called on law enforcement for support, and he had a message for the public.
"It is our hope that you will not use any of this case to judge the Hmong community," Vang said. "Domestic violence takes place in all communities in the state and nation."
The deaths came on the heels of other violence in the Hmong community. In another case in recent months, a 28-year-old Hmong man died in a stabbing at a St. Paul bar.
LAW ENFORCEMENT EMPHASIZES COOPERATION
St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith and Ramsey County Sheriff Chief Deputy John Kirkwood both spoke to the group, along with a representative from the County Attorney's Office. They all expressed sympathy for the community's loss and emphasized their desire to work together. But Kirkwood also made a plea for people to come forward to ask for help.
"Just like with anything else, we can't investigate and we can't respond to something we don't know," Kirkwood said. "We truly do need the community's help in stepping up and bringing things to our attention, whether it be domestic abuse or gang activity or anything like that.
Both the Hmong leaders and law enforcement took pointed questions from the audience. Some wanted to see funding for Hmong 18 Council, so it might provide more help to families in crisis. Others said law enforcement officers don't respond quickly enough to non-emergency calls. They agreed on few specific solutions.
A CALL FOR DIVERSITY
Afterward, Kaohly Her, director of Hmong women's organization Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together, said it was an important meeting, nonetheless.
"It's a good first step, in that they were able to at least take a position and say that 'we don't accept domestic violence in our community,' " Her said. "I was a little bit disappointed that there were no concrete solutions that were offered."
In order to make real progress, she said, more people need to be involved.
"All the representatives up there were all male," Her said. "Even the police, they were all males too. To me, if you're trying to protect the majority of people who are affected by sexual assault or domestic violence are women, well then we should probably have some women at the table too."
Kevin Vang, the Hmong Council 18 president, said soon Hmong leaders will meet privately with law enforcement to talk about next steps.