Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hmong family shot at on Sacramento River

Hmong family shot at on Sacramento River
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Not a scenario you usually prepare for when planning a fishing trip.

Thao Xiong, 47, was spending a peaceful Saturday on the Sacramento River with his family, when they were shouted and then shot at by an Orland man armed with a rifle.

A highway patrol airplane served to scare Bradley Holtz, 22, away, and he was captured after a half-an-hour chase in bushes near County Road 52.

Mr. Xiong of Oroville was fishing on the east bank of the river with sons Pau, 25, and Chee Meng, 1, wife Mee Kong, 42, and nephew Kai Thao, 38.

The family is Hmong; Thao Xiong thinks that their ethnicity prompted the incident.

Launching at the Butte City boat ramp at 8 a.m., the crew traveled upstream for 10 or 15 minutes and fished for about two hours.

On the west side of the river, Mr. Xiong saw a blue pickup park directly opposite them, on the west side of the river. Mr. Holtz emerged and began to yell at Mr. Xiong and his family.

Because they were on different sides of the river, the family could not understand Mr. Holtz. There was no one else around he could be talking to. Though afraid, they ignored Mr. Holtz to avoid trouble.

Then Mr. Holtz reached into the driver’s side of his truck and pulled out a rifle, a Ruger 223.

“After noise yelling, he open fire,” said Thao Xiong.

The three or four shots came from waist level, and went diagonally, south of Mr. Xiong’s boat.

The family tried to move farther up the bank of the river and stay out of sight, but Mr. Holtz drove his truck 100 yards north and fired two or three more shots.

He then leaned against the front of his pickup and stared at the group for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Pau Xiong called 911 at 11:14 a.m. At 12:02 p.m., the plane arrived and found the family, at which point Mr. Holtz drove off.

Sheriff’s deputies and highway patrol were near the scene, but deputies were slowed by a locked gate on a levee road that didn’t extend all the way to the scene. When the plane spotted Mr. Holtz’s pickup in an orchard, a highway patrol officer turned on his lights and tried to apprehend Mr. Holtz, but Mr. Holtz drove off through the orchard, between County Roads 55 and 56. The plane followed the vehicle south of County Road 52, when Mr. Holtz stopped his pickup, left his rifle there, and took off on foot.

Apprehended by sheriff’s deputies in the bushes wearing a torn white shirt, Mr. Holtz was ordered to the ground at gunpoint. He claimed he was been out hunting on his grandmother’s property, and gone out with his pocketknife to kill a wounded coyote.

He was charged with negligent discharge of a firearm, evading an officer, and driving on a suspended license, and booked into Glenn County Jail.

Thao Xiong and his family went home after the incident. Mr. Xiong said he was happy that everyone was safe.

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