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Questions remain in Saturday's officer-involved shooting

Several unanswered questions remain about Saturday's officer-involved shooting in North Merced, where one man was killed and two injuries were reported.

The Merced County Coroner's Office on Monday identified the person who was killed as 21-year-old Vang Thao of Merced.

The circumstances of how Thao was shot remain a mystery, and police offered no explanation Monday. The man who police say actually brandished a firearm at officers is a validated gang member named Kong Xiong, 18, who survived the shooting.

According to the department's version of events, chronicled in a press release sent to local media, before 11 p.m. two police officers went to the residence in the 1500 block of Buckingham Court after receiving a call about a man brandishing a firearm.

As the officers approached the home, they heard what sounded like an argument and heard the sound of a gun being prepared for firing. Officers saw Xiong with the gun and ordered him to put it down. Xiong pointed the gun at the officers, who then fired. Xiong was struck in the leg and flown to a Modesto hospital.

What remains unclear is how Thao was fatally injured after police fired their weapons. There's been no mention by police of Xiong firing his weapon during the confrontation.

Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade said Monday he couldn't elaborate on the officer-involved shooting, citing the investigation. "I don't have any other details that we can release right now," Andrade said.

Lt. Bimley West, department spokesman, was asked about the circumstances surrounding Thao's shooting, but he also didn't elaborate. "The detectives are looking into what transpired that resulted in (Thao) being fatally wounded," West said.

During a check of the Buckingham Court home, police found a 17-year-old boy with a bullet wound to his leg. He was taken to Mercy Medical Center for treatment. Police also haven't commented on how the juvenile received his wounds, or who shot him. "As (detectives) continue to investigate the evidence and obtain witness information, all of the pieces will come together as to what really transpired," West said.

Xiong's gun was recovered by police and is undergoing ballistic testing, West said.

Police haven't released the names of the officers involved in the shooting. They've been placed on administrative leave as a part of standard protocol.

Xiong has been booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Police are asking witnesses or anyone with information about the incident to call Detective Chris Russell at (209) 385-4707 or the department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725. Tips can also be texted by calling TIP411 (847411) using the keyword "comvip." Tips are kept confidential and callers can remain anonymous.

Managing Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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