A Hmong American man shot to death by police officers during a Lava Fire evacuation on June 28 has been identified this week.
What we know: Hawj Soobleej Kaub, 35, was reportedly shot at by multiple officers near a roadblock that prevented residents from entering the fire zone at the Mount Shasta Vista subdivision in Northern California’s Siskiyou County.
- The “Lava Fire” started at around 7:45 a.m. on June 24 after lightning struck northeast of the community of Weed. As of this writing, the small fire that ignited in a remote area of an old lava flow has burned 26,316 acres, endangering nearby communities and marijuana farms.
- The evacuation on June 28 started shortly after 8:30 p.m. due to the fire’s rapid and wind-driven expansion, KDRV reported. Firefighters were staged at the intersection of Shasta Vista Drive and County Road A-12, while police officers closed the latter’s southbound lane to prevent traffic from entering Mount Shasta Vista.
- The fire is 77% contained as of today. Full containment is expected on Aug. 1 at approximately 12 p.m.
What authorities are saying: On Wednesday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office positively identified Kaub, of Kansas City, Kan., as the man who died in an “officer-involved shooting” on June 28.
- In an earlier statement, the Sheriff’s Office said Kaub was leaving the subdivision in a GMC pickup when he tried to turn south onto County Road A-12 and further into the evacuation zone. This is where he came across officers from multiple agencies — who reportedly attempted to stop him — and he allegedly pulled his firearm.
- “While the law enforcement officer was communicating with the driver, the driver raised his hand and pointed a semi-auto handgun at the officers,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Peace officers from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Etna Police Department shot the driver.”
- Initial information indicated that Kaub may have fired “several rounds from the gun at the officers during the incident,” the Office added, referring to him as a “suspect.”
- Officers involved were put on paid administrative leave and the case continues to be investigated by a Critical Incident Team led by the Siskiyou County District Attorney’s Office.
What the community is saying: The fatal shooting has escalated tensions between law enforcement and Hmong marijuana growers, who claim that deputies and firefighters stopped them from fighting the fire as it approached their farms, according to the Fresno Bee.
- Zurg Xiong, a community activist, started a hunger strike to protest the incident and fight for justice last week. He claims that officers were watching and laughing at them as they tried to fight the fire.
- Kaub was reportedly killed in front of his wife and three children, who were traveling in a second vehicle behind him.
- Darren Duck, who reportedly lives near the site of the shooting, said he heard about 60 shots fired. “You heard everybody go to hollerin’ and then rapid gunfire for 30 seconds it seemed like,” he told the Sacramento Bee. “So much gunshots it wasn’t funny.”
- Tou Ger Xiong, who has been following and documenting the incident, said eyewitnesses — including a volunteer firefighter — claimed that they did not see Kaub draw any weapons, but deputies “blast[ed] bullets” into his vehicle anyway. Xiong criticized the Sheriff’s Office and encouraged the community to unite and fight for justice in several ways.
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The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office vowed to release “a thorough report of the incident” when the investigation is completed. Anyone with information is asked to contact the District Attorney’s Office by email at [email protected] or phone at 530-842-8125.
Featured Image via KDRV