Yorn Eng and her husband Heng Hean are frantic to learn the condition of their son, Sokha Hor, who was hospitalized and in custody after being shot by
Yorn Eng and her husband Heng Hean are frantic to learn the condition of their son, Sokha Hor, who was hospitalized and in custody after being shot by police Jan. 7. (Greg Mellen / Press-Telegram)

Latest: Family of Long Beach man shot by police finally granted access after 10 days

LONG BEACH — As the memories flood back for Yorn Eng, she struggles to remain composed as her emotions yaw between sadness and anger.

The sadness comes when she recalls her brother being taken away without explanation more than 35 years ago by the Khmer Rouge in the middle of the night from a Cambodian village, never to be seen again. Her husband, Heng Hean, lost two siblings under similar circumstances.

The anger comes when she is forced to wait and wonder about the unknown condition of her 22-year-old son, who Long Beach police shot 10 days ago after he allegedly drew a gun on officers. The son, Sokha Hor, faces a list of felony charges including assault with a semiautomatic weapon on a peace officer.

He may be near death and on life support, or he may be stable. Yorn Eng's family said in an interview Thursday it has heard both accounts from detectives, and nothing since Monday.

"If an animal is hit in the street, they'll call the owners with answers," her son Hong Hor said, translating for his mother.

Sokha Hor lies in a hospital bed under arrest by Long Beach police, that much they know. The rest is conjecture because the hospital won't release information on his condition and police have denied visitation, the family said.

One of the couple's daughters said she was told Monday by detectives that her brother was on life support and breathing through a ventilator. Another sister said she was told earlier that the brother was in stable condition.

At no time have detectives met with the family as a whole to answer questions or provide information, they said.

"The big part is, he's in technical custody of the police and there's not a protocol or provision for prisoner visitation in a hospital," said Sgt. Aaron Eaton of the Long Beach Police Department.

Neither, he said, is there a requirement by detectives to keep the family involved and informed.

"The circumstances are a little unique," he added.

He said discussions are ongoing in the police department to determine how to handle the situation with the family.

"We're cognizant that a lot of people are touched by this issue and we're trying to address it as best we can," Eaton said.

Police shot Sokha Hor Jan. 7 in an alley in the 1900 block of East Fourth Street off Cherry Avenue when they were searching for him in connection with a burglary. Police officials say he pulled a gun when confronted.

Detectives said they found a handgun near Hor and later found two assault rifles.

After the shooting, he was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery, police said.

Police said Hor was a gang member, which his sisters confirmed, but added, "that's just a label."

As an adult, Sokha Hor's criminal record is sparse -- consisting of conviction on a count of theft in 2009 and littering in 2010, according to Los Angeles Superior Court records.

Despite the acts Hor is charged with now, the family said they are being made to suffer needlessly.

"Your emotions just go crazy. You feel just hopeless, " said Hong Hor, an older brother who flew from his home in Maine with his father when they learned of the shooting.

The family said they didn't even know Sokha Hor had been shot until they read about it at presstelegram.com.

"I felt like I can't do anything. They wouldn't even tell me he was (at the hospital)," Connie Hor said of her first attempts to learn information. "I can't even explain how that makes you feel."

Eaton confirmed that the hospital can't release information on a patient in police custody, even to next of kin.

He said only the detectives handling the case could release information, adding that "we are cautious to speak about medical issues because we are not versed on this. We have to take what the hospital gives us."

The family said this is not the America their parents risked their lives fleeing Cambodia to come to. The parents said they feel betrayed.

As they sit in their small home on the edge of the Cambodia Town section of Long Beach, the parents nearly shrink into an overstuffed couch as they recall terrible memories. They may not have been formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but some of its symptoms are plain to see.

Hean has spent most of his 27 years in the United States working at small Asian markets cleaning fish, while Eng raised their nine children -- another six died in Cambodia before the family immigrated.

"When she brought this family (to the United States) she wanted us to have good lives," said Hong Hor, translating for his mother. "She thinks it's unmoral for her to be denied seeing him."

For Eng and Hean, there is an eerie parallel to the unknown fate of their son and what happened to them more than 35 years ago when they lived under the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

"It brings back memories, she doesn't know how he's doing," Hong Hor said in translation. "She just feels the sorrow and not knowing and not being able to do anything. She's not wanting to live, It opens up old wounds in the heart."

The family has organized a demonstration at 1 p.m. Sunday outside St. Mary Medical Center to "demand the LBPD show some humanity and allow Sokha's family to see him before it's too late."

"The law enforcement profession is supposed to protect and serve," Connie Hor said. "I felt like if we can't turn to them for help, I don't know who to turn to."

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2093, twitter.com/gregmellen