Inside the Rise of the Hmong Gang Menace Of Destruction (MOD)

How racial divide, brutality, and anger gave birth to the largest Hmong gang in America.

Y. Vue


It was a scorching hot afternoon here in California when I picked up my cellphone and dialed the unfamiliar number. On the other end, a gruff but friendly voice answered, his Hmong accent thick but still had a touch of central-California mixed in, a throw-back to the state where he’d grown up. He’d been expecting my call, and though this was the first time we’d ever talked, he was warm and easily opened up. Under any other circumstances, this would have been a normal conversation, reliving experiences of his childhood past and detailing for me the journey of his life, but this was no ordinary man. On the other end of the phone was none other than one of the founding members of Menace Of Destruction (MOD).

John (not his real name) is a retired OG (original gangster) of the most fearsome and infamous Hmong gang to have ever existed in the United States. Still to this day, they are the only officially recognized Hmong gang by the US government.

I’d contacted him because as a historian and a writer, I wanted to know his story and the reasons why MOD came to be. Regardless of how uncomfortable it might make the Hmong Community, Hmong gangs and the MOD were a part of our American story and thus, a part of us. It is important to understand how and why they came to be and to understand the world in which young Hmong boys banded together if we are to better understand our community now.

I’d read the Wikipedia page and watched the Gangland episode on the MOD, but nothing I found on the internet would come close to the truths he shared about the rise of Hmong gangs in California and of his childhood experiences that would shape the foundations of the MOD.

In the late 70’s, his family had been resettled from the Thai refugee camps to Portland, Oregon, along with a handful of other Hmong families. The community was small and close-knit. He recalled the first Hmong New Years celebrations there, how it was potluck style and each family would bring a dish for all to share. This idyllic picture though wasn’t without its trials. Outside of the community, racist attacks — whether verbal or…