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St. Paul police, organizers raise security at Hmong Freedom Festival

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Peter Pha (left) chairman of United Hmong Family's board of trustees
Peter Pha (left) chair of United Hmong Family's board of trustees, and St. Paul police Cmdr. Shari Falkowski brief reporters about heightened security measures at this year's Hmong Freedom Festival near McMurray Fields in St. Paul.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Citing an unspecified threat, organizers of this weekend's Hmong Freedom Festival have increased security measures.

Peter Pha, chair of United Hmong Family's board of trustees, made the announcement Wednesday, a day after messages that police described as "threatening" surfaced on some cars and social media posts.

"We have it under control," Pha told reporters at McMurray Fields in St. Paul, where the event is held.

"Please come enjoy," Pha said of the event he said has drawn nearly 40,000 people in years past.

Pha and St. Paul police officials stressed that measures like increased police presence and bag checks would be part of the weekend celebration of Hmong culture.

Police declined to comment further on the nature of the fliers because there is an ongoing investigation to find who is behind them.

"We are continuing the investigation and we are taking it very seriously," St. Paul police Cmdr. Shari Falkowski said. "This is a family event. It's been a wonderful family event for years."

Police wouldn't say if they believe the threatening fliers were related to the shooting death of a 19-year-old at last year's festival.

Police released a photo of an image of a flier shared on social media that appears to have a handwritten note that includes the words, "we lost one man last year," and appears to threaten retaliation.

Falkowski said police believe the threats are being made by "a small group of people."

At last year's event, Jacky Vue of St. Paul was shot to death.

Two men were charged in connection with his murder.

Nougai Xiong of St. Paul is awaiting a murder trial scheduled in early September and Yang Xiong pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the shooting in April.

Event organizers and police ask attendees to bring small bags so security checks can run smoothly.