Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In the past year, five members of the Southeast Asian community were murdered in the North Valley


The Merced Police Department hopes interaction with the community during their New Year celebration, which begins this week, will lead to some information in several unsolved murders from earlier this year.

Within the first 2 months of 2005, three members of the Southeast Asian community were killed by gunfire, one of them 6-year-old Cathlina Pimpradapsy. Police say she was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire.

Just before the new year got underway, a Southeast Asian couple was found dead in their home.

These murders prompted the police, and one victim's family, to beg the community to come forward with information.

"We are asking and begging the Southeast Asian community to help get involved in Hmong, Lao and Min communities. [We] need to start talking. Our community will never be safe if you don't help," said Nini Lee, sister of one of the victims.

Nearly a year later, five murders in the Southeast Asian community that occurred between the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 remain unsolved.

"There has always been a cultural issue in the past with the members of the Southeast Asian community not really wanting to cooperate, and to compound that with four of the five murders are gang related, so you have the intimidation factor ... it's frustrating," said Commander Tom Martin of the Merced Police Department.

Since the beginning of the year, the police department has held several meetings with leaders in the Southeast Asian community.

"Has the cooperation increased? Absolutely," said Martin. "Has it increased in these homicides? Absolutely not."

This week, the two sides are working together to make sure the Hmong New Year celebration is a safe one. The police department also hopes interaction at the celebration may lead them to more clues in these unsolved cases.

"We have the opportunity to get information from people we take into custody or just people coming up and asking us about the case, or coming up and saying, 'oh, I heard...,'" said Martin.

The Hmong New Year officially kicks off Friday. The celebration will take place at the Merced County Fairgrounds and last through Monday.

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