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Family of man shot by police is preparing a lawsuit

The family of a man shot and killed by police officers has prepared to take legal action against the city of Merced, as details of the incident continue to emerge.

The family has retained Sacramento-based law firm Wilcoxen Callaham LLP to investigate the Dec. 3 shooting, in which police officers say they inadvertently shot and killed Vang Thao, 21, after opening fire on Kong Xiong, 18, who officers say pointed a gun at them.

"We know we're going to file a lawsuit," said Bill Thao, the victim's older brother, adding that he thought the officers involved should have been more careful. "I do feel like this is something (where) a police officer was probably not doing their work correctly or not following procedure."

The officers involved in the shooting were identified as Eduardo Chavez and James Lodwick. Chavez was wearing a pair of eyeglasses that contained a camera, which recorded the events that occurred at a house party in the 1500 block of Buckingham Court about 11 p.m. Dec. 3. Police officials say the video clears the officers of any wrongdoing.

According to recently obtained court documents, Xiong admitted during a police interrogation to running from police while holding a gun when officers opened fire on him, wounding him in the leg. Officers mistakenly shot Thao, who was standing behind a fence.

The documents also revealed that Xiong and Thao were related. During police questioning, Xiong said his uncle -- later identified as Thao -- had driven him to the party. Bill Thao has confirmed that Xiong is related to their family.

During Xiong's interrogation, he admitted to being associated with the gang Oriental Troop but denied being an active member. Law enforcement officials said they have evidence Xiong is a "validated member" of a local gang.

Xiong has been arraigned on three felony counts and is being held in county jail.

Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or at jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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