News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

FELON SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS IN PRISON FOR USING INFANT SON AS SHIELD IN ARMED CONFRONTATION WITH SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES
Former Gang Member Faced Deputies with Gun Loaded and Cocked

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2011

Saying he was “surprised no one was shot or hurt” in a “volatile situation,” U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez sentenced PANHNHA KEO TANG, 32, of Seattle to seven years in prison and three years of supervised release for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Judge Martinez imposed a sentence above the guidelines range saying TANG is a “dangerous individual,” and the long prison sentence was necessary to protect the public.

According to testimony in court and records filed in the case, on May 18, 2010, TANG and a neighbor got into a heated argument related to a long-standing dispute over the use of the laundry room in the apartment complex. King County Sheriff’s Deputies were called to the scene by the neighbor who reported that TANG had threatened her, and was known to carry a gun either in his waistband or in a diaper bag. At TANG’s apartment, he refused to put his infant son down, and instead retreated down the hall to a bedroom. One deputy was able to remove a butcher knife from TANG’s pocket, then TANG retreated into a corner and held his son up shielding his head and torso, while reaching towards his waistband. TANG ignored deputies orders to show his hands. As three deputies prepared to shoot, a fourth entered the bedroom and fired a tazer, hitting TANG with one probe. A deputy grabbed the child, and TANG was handcuffed. A loaded handgun, with a round chambered and ready to fire, was found on the floor where TANG had been standing.

“I can’t imagine a more volatile situation,” Judge Martinez said after hearing officers testify at the sentencing hearing. “I’m surprised no one was shot or hurt... that the small child wasn’t hurt.”

In their sentencing memo, prosecutors described TANG’s criminal history including a murder conviction as a juvenile in 1994, related to a gang shooting. As an adult TANG has convictions for other firearm related offenses. As a convicted felon, TANG is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Asking the court for an eight year sentence prosecutors noted that the confrontation could have ended very differently. “Only the extreme restraint and professionalism by law enforcement avoided a tragedy. Everything Tang did -- from retreating to the cramped and cluttered bedroom, to repeatedly reaching for his gun, to selfishly and callously using his one-year-old son as a human shield by repositioning the little boy between himself and the deputies’ pistols that were aimed at him -- seemed to guarantee that the stand-off would end in violence. Fortunately, however, Tang and his young son were the beneficiaries of the deputies’ measured responses and quick reactions,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the King County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney C. Andrew Colasurdo, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs is a Deputy King County Prosecutor specially designated to prosecute firearms cases in federal court.

 

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