Trial underway for teen in deadly shooting

MERCED, Calif.

Vang Thao was an innocent bystander when two Merced police officers opened fire on a suspect back in December. Thao was shot and killed. Now, Thao's nephew is on trial for his actions on the night of the shooting.

Kong Xiong sat quietly in court as attorneys gave their opening statements to the jury.

Steven Slocum said, "The defendant presented himself toward the officers and the officers saw a gun in his hand."

Xiong is accused of illegally possessing a gun and ammunition, and being an active participant in a gang.

The prosecutor showed pictures of Xiong's tattoos, and the gun he's accused of having the night of December third, when officers shot him in the leg and accidentally killed his uncle.

The death of Vang Thao sparked outrage among his friends and family and led to protests outside the police department. But this trial focuses on Xiong's actions, not that of the officers. In fact, the attorneys are not allowed to let jurors know someone was shot and killed in this case.

"The state actually made the motion," Sean Howard said. "The DA's office felt it would be prejudicial to the district attorney if the jury were to hear that."

Defense attorney Sean Howard told the jury he'll offer reasonable doubt about the charges Xiong is facing. For example, he says the teen's tattoos only show support for his friends, not evidence he's a gang member. "He supports the Valley, he's got a tattoo that says 209 and we all know that's our area code, it's not a gang specific tattoo."

Xiong initially denied having a gun during a taped interview with a detective. But the teen later admitted to having it when the detective told him one of the officers involved in the shooting was wearing glasses, which recorded the entire incident. That video is expected to be a key piece of evidence when the trial continues next week.

Xiong faces a maximum of four years and four months in prison if he's convicted.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.