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Local Hmong organizations work to address domestic violence after second summer tragedy

Police say a child called police after investigators say their father shot his wife before turning the gun on himself — while their five children were in the home.

ST PAUL, Minn. — It’s the second time this summer that tragedy's struck the Twin Cities Hmong community. 

St. Paul police are investigating a murder-suicide involving 33-year-old Yia Xiong and his wife, 30-year-old Ka Lor.

Police say one of their kids called police after investigators say Xiong shot his wife before turning the gun on himself while their five children were in the home — each under the age of 10.

It’s incidents like these that are the driving force behind organizations like Transforming Generations, that works exclusively with Hmong families to intervene amid crises. 

"How to be in relationships that are healthy, how to be in relationships that will not be harmful, to be empathetic," explained Pheng Thao, executive director of Transforming Generations. 

Thao has spent the last 20 years working with domestic violence survivors in the Hmong community, trying to address the unknowns. 

"We know that a majority of the family members knew something was actually happening in that couples' life, right? There was a problem, there was an issue, they just didn't know how to address it," said Thao. 

Thao says there are several factors contributing to the violence, many of which are cultural. 

"It really comes from a place of patriarchy," Thao said. "It really comes from a place of privilege that men have in the community — that those are the root causes of it."

 He went on to explain, "No culture actually condones violence and supports the violence that's actually happening, but it is patriarchal culture that actually supports the violence and supports saying that men can do this."

Sadly, with each incident, Thao says there's a tragic correlation.

"We’ll have one murder-suicide and then a couple months later, we’ll have some murder-suicide that was very close to that one as well," said Thao. "If you don't do what I say, I'm going to kill you the same way that that other man had just killed his wife."

Speaking to the need of more readily available resources.  

"When we talk about the need, it's really around both prevention services and intervention services," said Thao. "When we think about prevention, we're needing to think about how to teach men how to be empathetic."

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with traditional funeral expenses and getting the couple's children ready for school. 

SPPD asks anyone experiencing domestic violence in their life to seek help and guidance from organizations such as Saint Paul Intervention Project, at 651-645-2824.

SPPD asks anyone experiencing suicidal or harmful thoughts to seek help from mental health professionals such as, Ramsey County Crisis Line at 651-266-7900.

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