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Special Prosecutors Take Over Case of Police Shooting of Boys

November 18, 1989

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The state attorney general’s office is providing special prosecutors in the investigation into the fatal shootings of two 13-year-old immigrant boys by a police officer after a stolen-car chase.

Prosecutors Robert Stanich and Mary Theisen of the attorney general’s criminal division will present the case to a Dakota County grand jury as early as Dec. 4, officials said.

The grand jury will be asked whether police officer Kenneth E. Murphy, 54, was justified in firing the shotgun blast that killed Thai Yang and Basee Lor, both of St. Paul, on Wednesday.

The boys were shot in the back from about 30 yards away while fleeing through a field in suburban Inver Grove Heights after abandoning a stolen car that had been chased there, investigators said.

Officials and family members, who are Hmong immigrants, said the two boys who were killed and a 14-year-old companion who was captured unharmed all had been arrested before.

The Hmong are a Southeast Asian people who largely sided with the United States during the Vietnam War. Many have immigrated to the United States since then, primarily to California and Minnesota, and some have suffered joblessness and adjustment problems since being resettled.

Two community meetings have been scheduled to deal with anger among Asian- Americans in the Twin Cities following the shooting deaths.

Murphy told investigators he fired after Yang turned toward him and held up what Murphy thought was a gun. It was a screwdriver, investigators said.

If the shooting is deemed unjustified, the grand jury could indict Murphy on criminal charges, deputy attorney general Steve Kilgriff said. Kilgriff would not be more specific.

Murphy’s lawyer, Paul Rogosheske, said, ’If they’re saying the shooting is unjustified, he could be convicted of murder.″

State law forbids officers from using deadly force unless it is necessary to protect themselves or others from death or great harm or to arrest or capture a felon who has killed or greatly harmed someone.

Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Stanley Troyer said the department’s internal affairs file for the past five years contains no complaints against Murphy.

The suburban police force has received some telephone death threats since the shooting, Troyer said. St. Paul police have ordered patrol officers not to ride alone until emotions calm.

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