A story for every victim

A dying mother's plan: Rent a hotel room, kill her troubled son

By the time he was 17, George Hang had lost his father to cancer, failed his classes at Gabrielino High School and been diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

George’s Laotian mother, Lai Hang tried to get help for her only child, but mental illness wasn’t something she could easily discuss, even with her closest friends, Frank Shyong reported in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times. 

Hang worried in silence as her son seemed to fixate on mass murders and violent video games. Once, in the presence of her friend Ping Chong, Hang wondered aloud about the mass shooters:  Why hadn’t anyone done something to stop them? 

“Taboos about mental illness pervade every culture, and research shows that Asian American families are the least likely among all racial groups to use mental health services,” Shyong wrote.

So when Hang was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2015 and given just four months to live, she didn’t have a support group. She wrestled alone with what would happen to her troubled son after her death. She planned out George’s future all by herself. 

“When people don’t understand that people with serious diagnoses can lead fulfilling lives, they hit the panic button,” says DJ Ida, director of the National Asian Pacific Islander Mental Health Assn.

Hang’s desperate decision involved getting a gun, renting a hotel room and shooting her son in the chest as he slept, authorities say. 

She believed he was at risk to become a mass shooter,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Eddie Brown. 

“She believed she was doing the right thing. She didn’t want others to suffer.”

Hang didn't shoot herself, she allegedly told authorities, as punishment for what she had done. 

When Chong came to visit Hang in jail, she pressed for an explanation.

“Hang turned her face away.” Shyong wrote.

“Burn all of our pictures, she told Chong. I don’t want anyone to remember us.”

Hang's cancer spread in jail, leaving her partially blind and paralyzed, and in December, a judge released her to a hospital. Five months after her son's death, Lai Hang died alone. 

Read the whole story here. Questions? Email Shyong at frank.shyong@latimes.com

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