FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – Ten people were shot — four of them fatally — as family members gathered to watch a football game on Sunday night, the Fresno Police Department said, and a community is picking up the pieces.
Three who were killed died at the scene, and the fourth died later at Community Regional Medical Center.
All four were described by police as Asian men aged 23 to 40, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Six others were also shot; one of them was critically wounded.
Shortly before 8 p.m., police dispatchers started getting 911 calls about a shooting that happened on the 5300 block of east Lamona Avenue in southeast Fresno.
“Officers came in and they saw three people down immediately … and CPR was started immediately,” Deputy Police Chief Michael Reid said. “There were about 35 people that it looks like were inside the house and inside the backyard — they were at a football party.”
This was a family gathering.Deputy Police Chief Michael Reid
On Monday at a press conference, representatives from the FBI, ATF, and Homeland Security joined Police Chief Andy Hall to give an update.
At least two suspects entered the backyard through a side gate where 16 men were gathered and opened fire. There were approximately 30 people in the home at the time — including children, Hall said.
The men who were killed were Xy Lee, 23, Phia Vang, 31, Kou Xiong, 38, and Kalaxang Thao, 40. All men were from Fresno. Xiong lived at the home where the shooting occurred.
FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND FANS IN DISBELIEF
Lee was a famous singer in the Hmong community.
Lee moved to the U.S. from Thailand as a refugee in the early 2000s. His aunt, Lily Vang, serving as his music mentor.
“For him, it was really the opportunity for him to live his dreams,” Vang said.
Three albums and millions of fans later, he was truly living the American dream — until Sunday, when his life was cut short.
“When I heard about the news, I felt very broken. He definitely imprinted on me — like a little brother to me,” Vang said. “I am shocked and completely devastated. I feel like I lost a piece of me and he really took a piece of my heart.”
Fans and other artists also devastated.
Jake Thao, who met Lee around five years ago, says he is still in disbelief.
“There is no way to explain how emotional — how mentally distressed we are because they are just really kind nice people, and why that house specifically,” Thao said.
Pao Yang, CEO of the Fresno Center and Hmong community leader, said, “They would come out to perform to our mental health clients –especially gearing up for the Hmong Near Year.”
Fans were planning on seeing Lee perform up in Sacramento on Nov. 29, but now they will never get that chance.
The survivors range in age from 28 to 36, Hall said.
Hall said the family party was described as “very peaceful — very quiet.”
Hall said they are looking for two suspects who wielded the semi-automatic handguns.
We’re coming for you.Police Chief Andy Hall
“This is truly a good group of people that were just simply having a party,” Hall said.
Deputy Chief Pat Farmer said the department is setting up an “Asian gang task force” that will specifically assist with the investigation of the deadly shooting as well as attempt to prevent retaliation leading up to Hmong New Year.
Hall added that they have stepped up police presence in the neighborhood.
Capt. Anthony Martinez said the shooting shocked his officers who responded to the shooting. He said the 10-block neighborhood has a lot of Hmong and Southeast Asian families living there.
“What took place last night, just at it shocked my officers that arrived there, has shocked that whole neighborhood, and it’s now my job as the southeast district commander to make sure that we let them know that we’re here with them, and we’re going to help them through this, too,” Martinez said. “Because that entire neighborhood was victimized when that took place.”
That entire community was victimized when that took place.Capt. Anthony Martinez, Southeast District Commander
A NEIGHBORHOOD IN SHOCK
Martinez said everyone in the neighborhood is still in shock.
“It took place last night, and just as it shocked my officers that arrived there, It shocked that whole neighborhood,” Martinez said.
Blong Xiong is a former Fresno Council Member. He said the whole Hmong community is feeling the devastating impact.
“There has to be a public safety issue when all of these gatherings were happening,” Xiong said. “Do we feel safe? Should we feel safe? How do we work with our police to make sure that the message gets across?”
Xiong said he has gotten several calls some from worried neighbors wanting to know what Fresno Police will do to keep their neighborhood safe.
“So, how do we move forward in such a quick manner here because of the issue the tragedy because this is a busy time for our community,” Xiong said.
One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said it’s a family neighborhood — the last place a shooting like this should happen.
“It is like a family area, so you don’t really think something like that would happen,” they said. “Every day and morning, kids are out here and people taking walks.”
Ron Hairell says he has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and there has never been a problem.
“It’s quiet, we have never had no problems here,” Hairell said. The only problems that they’ve had were in a nearby apartment complex, he added.
According to Martinez, their No. 1 priority is to ensure the safety of everyone in southeast Fresno.
“We want the citizens of Fresno to know we are doing everything we can to calm the violence and ensure that this doesn’t spark in any other neighborhood in Fresno,” Martinez said.
A COMMUNITY RALLIES TOGETHER
The Central California Blood Center put out a call for blood donations following the shooting.
“Last night our community was hit with a senseless tragedy which left four dead and many others injured. At this time, we are asking all eligible blood donors to please come out today or as soon as possible to donate at a blood center or mobile drive near you. Our hospitals are in desperate need as blood inventory levels were gravely impacted overnight. We thank you for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our community.”
For a full list of donor centers or mobile drive locations and hours, residents can go to donateblood.org.
Valley Crime Stoppers President Dale Mendoza said they are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the killings. Residents must call 559-498-7867 to be eligible for the reward.
The Fresno City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss funding the Crime Stoppers reward.
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SEND CONDOLENCES
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand put out a statement on the shooting Sunday night.
“This senseless tragedy does not define us — rather, our response and unity as a community will and I have complete confidence in our collective resolve,” Brand said.
Rep. Jim Costa spoke about the shooting on the House floor Monday.
“Children were present at this meaningless act while they were watching a football game,” Costa said. “And while none of the children were harmed, certainly their lives will be changed forever as a result of the trauma they experienced last night.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) put out a statement on the shooting Monday morning.
“Enough is enough. The daily tragedy of gun violence continues to inflict terror and violence into communities across the country. Americans deserve real action to keep them safe, but Republicans continue to obstruct meaningful, bipartisan solutions to protect our children and communities. No one’s political survival is more important than the survival of our children.
Former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who is currently running for mayor, called the violence “senseless” and was confident that police will quickly bring the shooters to justice.
“I am very confident that the men and women of the Fresno Police Department will solve this horrendous crime very quickly and bring those responsible to justice.
Andrew Janz, Fresno County prosecutor and Dyer’s mayoral opponent, said the loss of Xy Lee was a loss to the community and world.
In 2017, there was a triple homicide in the same neighborhood that occurred during a home invasion.