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Warrants issued for 4

by Eric Frankowski
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER Police have arrested two of the six males they believe are responsible for last Sunday's kidnapping and gang rape of a University of Colorado student, and warrants have been issued for the arrest of the four suspects still at large.

"We are confident these are our suspects," Boulder police Deputy Chief Jim Hughes said at a news conference announcing the arrests Saturday afternoon.

All six are affiliated with the "Asian Crips," a gang based in the Westminster area, according to Hughes.

The two suspects now in custody were arrested without incident early Saturday morning at undisclosed locations in Westminster.

They are:

n Kao Nick Vang, 18, an Asian male from Westminster, who is being held in the Boulder County Jail. Vang's criminal record includes arrests for first-degree trespassing and larceny last February in Wheat Ridge.

n and an unidentified 16-year-old Asian male, also a Westminster resident, who is in custody at the Boulder Youth Detention Center.

Both will be charged with first-degree kidnapping, a class 1 felony that carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment, and first-degree sexual assault, a class 2 felony with a possible sentence of between 16 and 48 years. Appearance dates have not been set for either suspect.

It will be up to the district attorney whether or not to charge the juvenile as an adult, Hughes said.

Detectives made the arrests after linking DNA samples obtained from the suspects at least one by court order to forensic evidence found in the blue Plymouth minivan believed to have been used in the crime.

"We have collected evidence from this vehicle that we believe will be beneficial to a future prosecution," Hughes said.

Following up on a tip phoned in to police, investigators recovered the van Monday and traced its registration to the father of two of the other suspects in the rape and kidnapping, 19-year-old Steve Yang and his brother Kather Yang, 20, also both of Westminster.

From the evidence, Hughes said, investigators are now confident that the younger Yang is the suspect the victim described as the heavy-set male who dragged her into the van from a dark street close to the CU campus around 2:50 a.m. last Sunday.

She was driven into the mountains and raped for two hours before her assailants dropped her off near Left Hand Canyon.

Despite the apprehension of two of the attackers, however, a motive for the assault remains sketchy.

"As far as we know, the (suspects) were just up here for a party," said Hughes. "After that it gets confusing."

He did not rule out the possibility that either the Yangs or the other two suspects being sought 23-year-old Lafayette resident Sonny Lee or an unidentified 16-year-old Dacono male were still in the area and said detectives would concentrate their search in north metro Denver for the remainder of the holiday weekend.

However, he also said the search could be expanded if they are not found soon.

"They're unaccounted for, and it wouldn't surprise me if they've left the state," he said, adding that it is possible they may have fled to either California or Minnesota, where they might be in hiding with fellow Asian Crips gang members.

Despite the manhunt for the gang members, however, police are not releasing photos of the suspects.

"We still have a huge amount of investigative work to do," Hughes said, "and the investigation could be compromised by the release of these pictures."

Part of the reasoning, he said, is to refrain from jeopardizing possible suspect lineups for the victim, who has not seen some of the photographs.

While the investigation is currently focusing on tracking down the four missing suspects, Hughes alluded that it eventually would be expanded to re-examine testimony and evidence taken from a list of 30 people police identified as "individuals of interest."

"Whether there was any cover-up, inaccurate information or false alibis given is something we will pursue at a later time," he said.

The apparently speedy resolution of the case is a feather in the cap of the Boulder Police Department's new Major Crimes Unit.

Formed earlier this year largely in response to the beleaguered department's unsolved investigations of the murders of JonBenet Ramsey and CU student Susannah Chase the unit is perfect "to deal with this exact type of case," said Hughes.

"It is made up of very experienced, highly motivated and extremely well-trained investigators who work well together," he said. "They have performed as intended and are to be commended for their efforts."

Hughes also praised the cooperation given by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Adams County Sheriff's Department's gang task force, Westminster Police Department's Special Crimes Attack Team, Boulder County Sheriff's Department and Boulder District Attorney's Office.