A letter from the family of Sylasone "Bong" Ackhavong

January 4, 2017

To the general public:

We first thank everyone who has supported our family in making sense of what happened to our dear brother Sylasone “Bong” Ackhavong. The community has shown our family tremendous support and solidarity in our journey to find out what happened to him on the night he was shot and killed by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) SWAT Officer O.M. Lester. What we know so far about how Bong’s life was senselessly taken, has left us with even more questions than answers. Bong was a dear and beloved son, brother, and father. He was a good man, who was funny, loving, and compassionate. He was an immediate friend to anyone he met. This event has been hard on our family, especially as we are unclear on what happened the night Bong lost his life.

Today, we met with the Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney (DA) and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to learn of the results of the investigation that we requested into the police shooting of our brother, Sylasone “Bong” Ackhavong. The shooting occurred on April 19, 2016, instantly killing our dear brother. The District Attorney provided us with a narrative of what happened that night and showed us some still images of the security camera footage from the gas station where he was killed. The decision was made during the SBI’s investigation that Officer O.M. Lester was justified in shooting and killing our brother Bong. Officer Lester will not be prosecuted.

We want clarity on the situation, and we still have not received it. We are still unclear on what happened to Bong in the last hours of his life. Since his death in April 2016, today was the first time that we have even seen any images of what happened that night. Anything that we know was relayed to us, firstly, by a CMPD officer and today by a DA. We want to see and understand for ourselves what happened and how Bong was killed. We have decided to request access to the full investigative file from the CMPD. The file will have camera footage from the gas station, police body and dash cameras, as well as any audio from the 911 and officer dispatch calls. We have a lot of questions as to what happened and why. These questions will not be answered until we have full access to the investigative file--not bits and pieces provided by the media, CMPD, SBI, and DA.  If denied, we are prepared to seek a court order to have full access to the investigative file--an additional legal hurdle placed on our family from the newly enacted HB 972 prohibiting the release of police video recordings to the public.

The media have erroneously painted Bong as a danger, stating in earlier reports that Bong pointed his gun at the police. Despite the fact that Bong had a gun and a bulletproof vest, we would like the public to know he never lifted or pointed his gun at the police, or made any sudden moves to harm them. This fact has been confirmed to us by both CMPD and the DA. We know Bong as a person who would never hurt anyone. He should still be here with us. We love and we miss him.


The Ackhavong Family


APIs 4 Black Lives -- Charlotte Uprising 

 Freedom Fighter Bond Fund here!

(Please note your donation "API4Blacklives")

On September 20, 2016 Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43 Black disabled man who was waiting for his children to come home from school. 

In the past 3 weeks, communities and organizers have taken to the streets to demand justice for Keith and for all Black lives stolen by police terror and violence. Folks have also organized community meetings, canvassed, and trainings with a clear message: Stop Killing Black People. 

The struggle has only intensified.  Read more 

Justice for Chieu Di Thi Vo

On May 11th after public pressure from the family, SEAC, and community activists -- the Greensboro city council voted to release the body camera footage of Chieu Di Thi Vo's fatal shooting. However, they decided to release it at a press event, with Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott preemptively explaining each portion of the video and 911 calls. This is NOT transparency. 

Upon viewing the body camera footage, more questions have been raised than have been answered. Are Greensboro police officers sufficiently trained to handle those who are neurodivergent (mentally ill), and/or those who have low English proficiency? Are they sufficiently trained to de-escalate all situations? We also know that this is not an isolated incident. We have seen and continue to see police brutality against brothers and sisters of color. This extensive list includes #EricGarner, #SandraBland, #TrayvonMartin, #MikeBrown, #JonathanFerrell, #ChieuDiThiVo, and #BongAckhavong (#SayTheirNames). What is done in police departments to prevent violence and discrimination against people of color? Questions as to how the Greensboro City Council has treated the situation have also been raised. We still wonder, why it took two years for the city to allow the Vo family to view the footage? The Vo family also wonders why there are discrepancies between what the police have been conveying to the public and to the family?