Saturday, January 29, 2011

Asian gangs' violence felt in Stanislaus County

Law enforcement in Stanislaus County focuses a lot of attention on Latino street gangs because of the number of members and the extent of their criminal activities: drug trafficking, robberies and homicides. But Southeast Asian gangs, while less prevalent in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, are still part of the area's criminal landscape and are just as dangerous as their Latino rivals. The deadly nature of the Southeast Asian gangs was evident in Modesto after a married couple and their daughter were killed during an apparent robbery at their Yosemite Boulevard Asian goods market. Vanh Thammavongsa, 55, was pronounced dead at the scene. His 49-year-old wife, Phou- vieng Thammavongsa, and their daughter were taken by ambulance to a hospital. His wife died at the hospital. Daughter Nanci Thammavongsa, 28, died after hospital officials turned off her life-support machines. The Thammavongsas were refugees from Laos. Thou Yang of the Hmong Association of Stanislaus County said the deaths of the Thammavongsas are shocking. Three young men - known by police to be members of a Modesto Southeast Asian gang inspired by the black gang known as the Crips - have been charged with three counts of murder in the deaths of the Thammavongsas. Oloth "Dicky" Phommahaxay, 18, Sophon Theoun Ting, 16, and Chris Douangkham, 15, are members of the CWA Crips, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. The Asian teenagers are accused of murder in the deaths of the Thammavongsas, with gang enhancements that could bring longer sentences. They pleaded not guilty. "Southeast Asian gangs are pretty violent groups," said Pouv, a member of the Modesto police Gang Investigations Unit. "The concept of disrespect is a big thing in these gangs. It's almost more personal than Latino gangs." He said disrespecting someone is like dishonoring yourself, and it's never tolerated. "Like the Latino gangs, they have a tendency to prey on victims of their own race," Pouv said.

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