A convicted rapist who is accused of shooting two corrections officers in California is an undocumented immigrant facing deportation, Fox News reports.
Thong Vang, 37, was supposed to be deported after his parole following a rape conviction, but he remained in the United States after his home country of Laos wouldn’t take him back, federal authorities told Fox News.
Vang shot two unarmed deputies – Juanita Davila and Toamalama Scanlan – on Saturday in the lobby of the Fresno, California jail, police told the Fresno Bee. They were critically injured, but survived.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Vang Engaged in a Gun Battle in the Jail Lobby, Police Say
Sheriff Margaret Mims said a lieutenant and a sergeant rescued the injured officers after they were shot, with the lieutenant engaging “in a gun battle with Vang inside the lobby for 40 seconds before Vang surrendered,” the Fresno Bee reports.
About 15 people, including multiple children, were in the lobby at the time, according to the sheriff.
The shooting occurred on Saturday, September 4, and the deputies remained in critical condition on Tuesday, the Bee reports.
2. Inmates in the Jail Praised the Wounded Correctional Officers & Scanlan Was Nicknamed ‘the Rock’
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department posted a video on Facebook of inmates in the jail praising Davila and Scanlan, the two wounded officers.
“It’s no surprise that the great folks in our community have shown our injured correctional officers support through prayers and donations. However, something you might not expect is the positive reaction from some of our inmates in the jail,” wrote the Sheriff’s Department. “Several have expressed that they want to send their well wishes to Officers Scanlan and Davila. They have drawn get well cards and written personal messages inside. Many have already been delivered to the hospital and are displayed in the officers’ rooms.”
The Sheriff’s Department said that inmates referred to Scanlan as “The Rock” because of his resemblance to the Hollywood star.
One man who also works for the Sheriff’s Department wrote on Facebook, “Just to add, my inmate work crew dropped off some tables and chairs to the location. Once we dropped off the furniture, they formed a circle amongst themselves and said a prayer for the officers. They said they didn’t do it for attention but rather out of respect.”
The Sheriff’s Department also thanked the general community, writing, “We want to thank our community for its incredible outpouring of support. We serve each day believing you are in our corner and it’s on days like this we realize it more than ever. We will get through this and have faith that our injured will recover. We are professional, we are strong and with you at our side we will persevere, for we are in this together.”
3. Vang Has a Felony Criminal Record & Was on Parole
According to a press release from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, Vang was previously convicted of two felonies.
According to The Washington Times, Vang “was released from prison in 2014 after serving 16 years for raping three girls aged 14 and under.”
He is now charged with the attempted murder of the two officers as well as allegedly being a felon in possession of a firearm, the news release says. He has also been placed on a parole hold, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department said on Facebook.
4. Vang Said He Wanted to Be Arrested Before Shooting the Two Officers, Police Say
The Fresno Police Department alleged that, at around 8:15 a.m., “surveillance cameras positioned on Fresno city streets recorded images of the shooting suspect, 37 year old Thong Vang. The video showed Vang lingering around the front doors of Fresno Police headquarters. He tried to enter the lobby, but the doors were locked due to the office being closed. A short time later, he is seen leaving PD headquarters and walking toward the Fresno County Jail located at 1225 M Street.”
At 8:30 a.m., Vang entered the lobby of the main jail, said the police statement, which was posted on Facebook. “Vang paced back and forth for several minutes before walking up to the correctional officer working at the desk, where he told the officer he wanted to be arrested,” the statement alleges. “Vang then got close to a metal detector that leads to a secure area of the jail, so the officer at the desk asked for assistance from other correctional officers to escort Vang out of the lobby.”
At that point, one of the two shooting victims, Correctional Officer Juanita Davila walked out of the records area and asked Vang to leave, say the police, alleging that “Vang refused to listen to Officer Davila and got into a struggle with her. Additional officers were called in from secured areas of the jail to assist. During their response to the lobby, Vang pulled a handgun out of his clothing and fired a shot that broke the glass window on the records area hallway door. Vang fired another bullet, which struck Davila in the face.”
An officer tried to user a stun gun on Vang, but it did not stop him, the police say. It was at that point that Scanlan approached and fired his stun gun at Vang, the police statement said, adding, “Vang simultaneously fired his gun and struck Scanlan in his head.”
5. Vang Was Not Deported Because of a Supreme Court Ruling
Fox News says that the United States wanted to deport Vang after he was released from prison on the rape charge, but he “was freed when Laotian officials did not respond to a request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to assist in his removal.”
According to Fox News, in 2015, 3,735 illegal immigrant criminals from Laos “were ordered deported but instead freed when the country refused to cooperate” because a U.S. Supreme Court case says such immigrants can’t be held indefinitely if no country will take them.
The case cited by federal authorities is Zadvydas v. Davis.