Family and friends were outraged after Merced police shot and killed Merced College student Vang Thao, 21, at a Buckingham Court residence in December. Police were responding to a call about a man with a gun at a party.
Officers saw a man, later identified as Kong Xiong, 18, a validated gang member, holding a loaded gun. Xiong stood at the front of the house with his back partially toward officers, according to police. He suddenly turned toward officers with a handgun in his right hand and began running parallel to the house. The officers responded by firing at Xiong, and subsequently through a fence behind him. Thao and a 17-year-old boy, who were standing behind the fence, were shot. According to police, Thao died at a hospital. The teen survived with a leg wound.
The shooting prompted several protests and calls for answers. Merced police say video taken during the shooting clears officers of any wrongdoing. Even so, Thao's family members say they're preparing a lawsuit against the police department.
Bad behavior by Merced's tax collector
Karen Adams, Merced County's treasurer-tax collector, was censured by the Merced County Board of Supervisors and relieved of her appointed duty as registrar of voters after claims of harassment against her were substantiated by an independent investigation. The county spent about $13,000 to conduct the investigation, which said Adams had created a hostile working environment and made employees feel uncomfortable with odd behavior. Adams, who also serves as the county clerk, said the accusations were exaggerated and said she didn't plan to resign from her elected roles.
Changes on the Merced City Council
Voters wanted change, mostly, when they headed to the polls in November to vote for mayor and three City Council seats. After months of expensive and exhaustive campaigning, political newcomers Mike Murphy and Tony Dossetti were chosen for the seven-member council, as was incumbent Noah Lor. And Mercedians chose to oust Mayor Bill Spriggs in favor of Stan Thurston, a former councilman. The four winning candidates each said they wanted to work to bring jobs to Merced -- a notion that clearly resonated in an area that has seen many employers wither away in recent years and is suffering from near 20 percent unemployment. The race also featured an unusual -- and pricey -- battle between council incumbent John Carlisle and a group calling themselves Workers Opposing John Carlisle for Council 2011. The group, whose donors were mostly out-of-town businessmen, showed about $12,000 in funds just before the Nov. 8 election. As a result, Carlisle enjoyed a last-minute surge of campaign cash from labor unions.
In the midst of a souring economy, a group of Mercedians over the summer joined together on Facebook in a novel effort to support local businesses. Merced Flash Buy was started by Michael Abarca, a 26-year-old Merced resident who said he got the idea after watching videos of flash mobs -- those groups of people who gather in public places for seemingly spontaneous performances. Group members pledge to patronize a specific, locally owned business each Friday. They determine which business to support via a Facebook poll. Joe on the Go, a coffee and sandwich shop at Bear Creek Galleria, was the first business the group visited. More than 50 people participated. The group is still going strong, with nearly 1,400 members.
Online Editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or email@example.com.