Shooter convicted, still claims innocence

A Butte County judge last week sent 18-year-old Teng Yang to prison for 32 years for shooting 16-year-old Fue Yang (no relation) at a Chico cultural event last year. The victim was leaving a Hmong New Year’s dance being held near Bidwell Junior High School on Oct. 12, 2002, when he was shot by an assailant who police say fired at least 10 shots indiscriminately into a crowd. The victim was shot in the head but has subsequently recovered.

Teng Yang was convicted of the shooting on the basis of several eyewitness accounts. Yang admitted to being at the dance but denied he was the shooter. He did not take the stand in his defense. However, Yang’s family and defense lawyer still insist Yang is innocent of the charges and say the jury made a mistake in convicting him. Yang’s Marysville attorney Roberto Marquez, who is appealing the case, said the witnesses who offered testimony against his client gave different accounts to the jury than they gave to police at the crime scene.

“They all agreed the shooter had a ponytail,” Marquez said. “Teng Yang was at the dance, and he used to sport a ponytail. [But] as of July 2002, when he began working at Dairy Queen, he was bald.”

Marquez said the witnesses knew Yang from school and yet didn’t tell police at the scene he was involved. They were then given to time to confer among themselves after talking to police and may have formed a consensus opinion as to the assailant’s identity at that time, Marquez said.

Upon searching Yang’s residence, police found a ponytail taped to the wall in his room, evidence prosecutors pointed to as proof that Yang had tried to change his appearance. Marquez said several witnesses testified that Yang had cut his hair months before the shooting.

Butte County prosecutor Clare Keithly said the case against Yang was solid and refuted the argument that there was any collusion by the witnesses, who independently picked Yang out a photo lineup within days of the shooting.

“It is simply unreasonable to think that, after their friend was shot in the head, the witnesses would get together to try and frame [Yang].”

Keithly said Yang admitted he had cut his hair around the time of the shooting and also admitted to wearing a New York Yankees jacket on the night of the crime that, unbeknownst to him, four witnesses had seen the assailant wearing. Yang was given the relatively hefty sentence because he has ties to a Marysville street gang called Menace Boyz Crew.