April 4, 2023

By Pao Vue
New American Media

SAN FRANCISCO (June 3, 2016) — Last March, 16-year-old Dylan Yang was found guilty of first-degree reckless homicide for stabbing Isaiah Powell, then 13, in an altercation that had happened the previous year.

This altercation emerged as the tip of a vast iceberg of frozen race relations. After exchanges over Facebook, Isaiah and six or seven boys arrived in front of Dylan’s home and began shooting at Dylan and another boy with a BB gun. Dylan, then 15, ran into the house, leaving his friend outside where he eventually engaged in a tussle with Isaiah, and according to activist Tou Ger Bennett Xiong’s letter to the court, was beaten with the butt of the BB gun and sustained a broken eardrum. Returning to the scene and seeing Isaiah on top of his friend, Dylan stabbed him twice with a knife from his kitchen. The injured Isaiah died later at the hospital.

I am writing both as a scholar who researches Hmong American youth and as a person with ties to Hmong Americans in Wausau, including Dylan’s mother. Having followed from afar in upstate New York, devouring reports on the trial, I make no secret of my despair. None of this should have gone down.

Dylan Yang’s acts resulted in the tragic death of a boy. We grieve for Isaiah Powell, for this loss of youthful life. Meanwhile, tried as an adult with a $1 million bail, Dylan now faces up to 60 years in prison. Have we asked enough questions about how this could have happened, and about how the legal system handled this 15-year-old?

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