Hmong American activist ends hunger strike after talking with California Attorney General's office

Barry Kaye
USA TODAY Network – California
Sandy Xiong checks on her brother, Zurg Xiong, who lies on a mat in front of the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Yreka, California on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Xiong has been on a hunger strike since July 6 to protest the police shooting and killing of Hmong American Soobleej Kaub Hawj on June 28 during the Lava Fire evacuations.

Activist Zurg Xiong, 33, has ended his three-week hunger strike after meeting via Zoom over the weekend with a representative of the California Attorney General's Office and on the advice of his family after his health took a sharp turn for the worse.

Xiong and other Hmong American activists had demanded an outside investigation into the shooting of Soobleej Kaub Hawj on June 28 at a Lava Fire evacuation checkpoint. Officers from three agencies shot and killed Hawj, and the sheriff's office issued a press release saying Hawj had brandished a gun.

Xiong spoke with Michael Redding, a representative from the California AG's office along with his attorneys, Nancy Ly of Sacramento and Clayton Robertson of Oakland; Sacramento Council Member Mai Vang Yang; community activist Tou Ger Xiong; and Siskiyou Community Activist Tong Xiong, said Ly. Also on the call was Catherina Nou, the director of the newly formed Office of Community Awareness, Response and Engagement (CARE), which is an office within the CA DOJ, Ly explained.

Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said Monday he still believes no outside agency is needed to assist with the investigation as his officers are “people of integrity, determination and the skill to uncover the truth regardless of where the evidence leads them.”

“This is exactly what they are doing at this particular time – interviewing dozens of witnesses and collecting evidence,” he said. “No stone is left unturned in the process of determining exactly what happened and what evidence of the incident can be documented.”

Andrus added that “these incidents are uniformly tragic.”

“I have seen firsthand the powerful impact such incidents have upon peace officers. I have also visited with families over the years who have lost loved ones this way,” Andrus said. “It is tragic when an officer or when a civilian loses their lives in such an encounter.”

Officers with the California Department of Fish and Game and Etna Police Department, as well as Siskiyou County Sheriff’s deputies were all present when Hawj allegedly waved a gun at officers as he tried to return to the Mt. Shasta View subdivision near Weed, which was under a mandatory evacuation order at the time, authorities said.

In an email, Xiong’s attorney, Nancy Ly, said the state Attorney General’s office did not make any promises to investigate the event, but only relayed that they were aware of the situation.

“I think right now we’re trying to catch our breaths after working nonstop … and also want Zurg to regain some energy first,” she said.

Zurg "really played a huge role in this, in bringing attention to it. He really, really helped push the process along," said Robertson.

Andrus said he would not ordinarily ask for assistance from either the Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“For people to suggest that there is corruption or a cover-up is to make a misinformed and radically dishonest statement to further an agenda," Andrus said. "My investigators were quickly called to the scene at the time of the shooting and have overseen the entire investigation. It has been conducted with diligence, integrity and energy and will result in the truth being manifestly revealed.”

Redding Record Searchlight reporter Michele Chandler contributed to this report.