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Moonshine Saloon shooting suspect indicted
True Thao, 31, now faces multiple first-degree murder charges
True Thao, 31, of St. Paul faces a 14-count indictment in connection with a fatal shooting at the Moonshine Saloon on Oct. 26, 2013.
The 14 counts are a step up from charges Thao faced in the incident when he was originally charged last Halloween, and could mean longer sentencing, depending on the outcome of his trial.
The counts come from a grand jury indictment issued late Wednesday, Feb. 5.
"We don't take all murder cases to the grand jury," said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesperson for the Ramsey County attorney's office, noting the significance of the indictment.
However, "we believe there was enough evidence to do this in that particular case," he said.
The grand jury consists of 23 people who are randomly selected from residents to serve a six-month term. The panel meets on an as-needed basis when cases arise. To return an indictment, at least 12 members must agree.
A motion hearing for the case took place Thursday, Feb. 6. Thao's next court date, a pre-trial hearing, takes place Wednesday, Feb. 26.
The trial itself will open after that.
Three hit in drive-by shooting
Adlai Xiong, 27, of Minneapolis was killed in the shooting in front of the bar in the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, according to St. Paul police.
Two others - a man and a woman, ages 23 and 24 - also were injured in the incident.
According to a complaint from the Ramsey County attorney's office filed last October, Thao allegedly killed Xiong and attempted to kill the other two victims, shooting at them from the window of a dark-colored Honda Acura.
According to the complaint, Xiong was part of a neighborhood gang, called OMB. Officers learned that members of three separate gangs had been in the bar prior to the shooting.
Police recovered surveillance footage from inside the Moonshine Saloon, from which they were able to identify numerous gang members, including members of the OMB, MAB, and 612 gangs, the complaint states. OMB reportedly stands for Orivelle Mono Boys, while MAB stands for Mount Airy Boys, a known Asian-American street gang.
It was not clear whether Thao was a gang member at the time of the incident, although he was convicted of gang-related charges back in 2000.
Police said they recovered 12 shell casings from the scene. Each of the three victims suffered three gunshot wounds.
Xiong was shot in the head. The other man suffered gunshot wounds in his back, hand and leg, while a female victim had gunshot wounds in her arm, shoulder and buttocks. The three had gone outside the bar to smoke cigarettes.
According to the October 2013 complaint, one witness told police that Thao was at the witness' house, talking to the witness' wife. Thao reportedly smelled of beer and was acting strangely.
The witness asked Thao why he stopped by, and Thao told him he had nowhere else to go. Thao told the witness he thought he had just shot somebody, but didn't know who he'd shot.
The witness told investigators that Thao appeared to be inebriated.
Another witness told police that he and the other witness found Thao near his car, wearing sunglasses and apparently intoxicated. Thao was cleaning his car with bleach wipes, the witness told police.
Stronger charges may mean higher penalties
Thao's new charges include crimes committed for the benefit of a gang, and he faces eight attempted murder charges on top of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, and two counts of murder while committing a drive-by shooting.
"The original complaint had three charges," Gerhardstein noted, all of which were second-degree charges. All the new charges are murder in the first degree.
As such, "it opens up a broader range for sentencing," he said. "The penalties are higher."
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.