The body of a U.S. activist and comedian was found with over a dozen stab wounds and dumped in a ravine after allegedly being kidnapped and held for ransom in Colombia.
Tou Ger Xiong, 50, an Asian American man from Woodbury in Minnesota, was in the country on holiday and had met up with a woman with whom he had connected with on social media when he was abducted by a group of men, according to reports.
Xiong, who was born in Laos and spent four years of his childhood in a refugee camp in Thailand, called a friend in Colombia at around 7 p.m. Sunday saying the men were demanding $2,000 (8 million Colombian Pesos) in cash for his release, according to local newspaper El Colombiano.
He also told his friend that he was being held at gunpoint.
Meanwhile, as he was being held captive, police said a woman was raiding his apartment at around 4:40 p.m. but when police arrived on the scene she managed to escape. It is unclear if this was the same woman he had met up with earlier.
But before any payment could be made, Xiong’s body was found in the water of a ravine in La Corcovada, northwest of Medellín, with multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma, according to El Colombiano. He also had bruises caused by an apparent fall from more than 60 feet. Police say they are investigating whether the group decided to kill Xiong because he may have tried to escape captivity.
Eh Xiong, Tou’s older brother, shared some details about his brother’s brutal death with Fox 9, saying that he suffered “blunt force trauma to the head” and that his captors “tossed him over a bridge.”
His brother said police had caught one of the alleged kidnappers.
“We have full confidence in the Colombian police that they’ll find the people who did this to him, and bring them to justice,” Eh Xiong said. “Rather than grieving over the loss of his life, we want to celebrate what he has done and what he could be doing to help the community moving forward.”
Tou Ger Xiong’s family and friends told Fox 9 that he was the life and soul of the party and passionate about making positive changes to society.
The Carleton College political science grad dedicated his life to bridging cultures and speaking for those without a voice, his family told Fox 9.
“He would drive from here to Wisconsin to Milwaukee to Madison to help people [at] his own expense,” Eh Xiong told KSTP. “He [did] that kind of stuff.”
His family is now in the process of creating a foundation in his name, through which they hope to offer scholarships and assistance to those in need, Fox 9 reported.
Tou Ger Xiong is of Hmong descent, an indigenous group from East and Southeast Asia. In China, the Hmong people are classified as a subgroup of the Miao people.
According to the comedian’s website, his father served with the CIA and his family had to flee Laos after the communist takeover in 1975. He was a comedian, entertainer, motivational speaker and educator. He embraced the Hmong culture by educating his audience about his origin and helped co-found groups such as the Community Action Against Racism and the Hmong American Partnership. His website states he was married.
He was named a Bush Foundation fellow in 2019. The foundation’s website states that he amplified the voices of his community and served as a force for change.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn,,released a statement on Tou Ger Xiong’s passing.
“This is a heartbreaking tragedy,” Klobuchar said, as per Fox 9.
“Tou Ger was an incredible person who was constantly working to uplift his community. My office is in contact with Tou Ger’s family as they work to bring his body back to Minnesota.”