Grief shadows families after Roseville murder-suicide

Two photos of two people posing.
John Thao (left) and Fong Vang were killed on Sept. 23 in a double murder-suicide in Roseville. In days after, Hmong community members in the Twin Cities flooded social media with posts mourning his death alongside friend Fong Vang.
Courtesy of Starlight Thao, via Facebook and Leng Vang

One of the people killed in what investigators are calling a murder-suicide in Roseville will be laid to rest on Monday.

Fong Vang, 32, died after an “unprovoked” attack on Sept. 23 by friend Meng Vang, according to Roseville police. John Thao, 32, was also killed.

Meng Vang, of no familial relation to Fong Vang, injured another friend, Nou Xiong, before he killed himself at his Roseville home, according to an initial report from investigators.

The four men were known as old friends going back to their days at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis.

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The unexpected tragedy has left family members and their Twin Cities community reeling as they try to understand what happened and grieve the loss of cherished loved ones.

‘We lost a good human being’

“John was not just a son, brother, uncle, and friend to many; he was a shining example of kindness, selflessness, and unwavering support for our family and friends,” reads a GoFundMe campaign for Thao’s funeral, organized by his brother Fongcu.

Thao is best known as a world class athlete in sepak takraw, a Southeast Asian sport that is a mix of soccer and volleyball. He helped Team USA win two gold medals in the 2022 World Cup, earning him the reputation of “the face of the sport in the state of Minnesota.”

Man smiles wearing two medallions and holding two trophies
John Thao was a world-renowned sepak takraw athlete, helping Team USA win two gold medals in 2022.
Courtesy of Starlight Thao

People might have spotted him in a Hmong film or known him as the manager for a entertainment group – Thao was always willing to help out with friends’ projects, according to his younger sister Starlight.

“Anyone who needed John's help, John would be there for them,” she said.

Starlight said her brother, a University of Minnesota graduate, loved collecting Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z cards, as well as fishing and spending time with family.

Likewise, Leng Vang said his younger brother Fong was “a really good, loving brother” who always jumped at the opportunity to help care for his many nieces and nephews. He also often volunteered helping older adults or at their St. Paul church.

A young man smiles sitting with hands clasped
Fong Vang, a Patrick Henry High School alumni, is remembered as a loving brother, uncle and friend who "loved anything that involved the outdoors," according to his brother Leng Vang.
Courtesy of Leng Vang

“Smart, young guy. Good kid, never got into any trouble. All his family and friends loved him. He was just such a joy to be around with,” he said.

Vang had settled into his dream working with computers as an IT technician.

He spent his free time in the outdoors, enjoying camping with family and fishing getaways.

“I will forever miss Fong,” said Leng.

‘Unprovoked attack’

Mystery still surrounds what happened inside the Roseville apartment on Sept. 23. The Roseville Police Department reports officers were dispatched for a welfare check when they found 33-year-old Nou Xiong injured with a life-threatening cut to his throat.

Then they found John Thao, Fong Vang, and Meng Vang all dead. Meng Vang was the resident of the apartment.

Xiong told officers that “an unprovoked Meng Vang suddenly started attacking him with a knife,” according to a police news release. Xiong was able to escape to a bedroom to call for help.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Thao died of homicide by sharp force. Fong Vang’s death was ruled homicide by sharp force and a gunshot, and Meng Vang’s death was ruled a suicide by gunshot.

A motive has yet to be identified, according to investigators. As of Friday, the case is still ongoing and active.

In a news release on Monday, Roseville police reported “initial indications suggest hallucinogenic drugs may have been a contributing factor.”

Police found mushrooms believed to be psychedelic at the scene and a third party told investigators the men had been consuming mushrooms, according to Joe Adams, deputy chief with the Roseville Police Department.

Test results have yet to confirm the mushrooms are psychedelic and whether any of the gathered people had consumed them.

“There's absolutely the possibility that one or several people did or did not consume any kind of psychedelics that evening,” Adams said.

Police report there have been no prior police calls to the residence and no documented police contacts with the suspect.

Fong Vang’s brother Leng wonders about what may have led to the incident.

“They were good friends. They kind of did everything together, so that's why it’s such a sad story that this took place,” he said.

Meng Vang’s older brother Cha Vang echoed this shock in a statement to KSTP earlier this week.

“My youngest brother is a good man. As far as I know, he and the other three persons were best friends since high school. They always hang out, do things together and keep things for themselves. Because they were best friends, I don’t believe my brother had a motive to do bad things to his three best friends and to himself,” he shared. “… I’m devastated and also deeply sorry for the other three families.”

The families of John Thao and Fong Vang are fundraising for memorial expenses.

Fong Vang will be laid to rest on Monday after a celebration of life on Sunday. Arrangements for John Thao are still pending.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking about suicide, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.