In a tragic series of events this weekend on the Tule Indian Reservation in California, tribal member Hector Celaya went on a veritable shooting rampage that left his daughter, mother and two brothers dead. Though first reports were three dead, Celaya, known by tribal authorities to be troubled by drug use, died due to gunshots received during a shootout with the police and a daughter also died. Two other children were wounded.
According to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Celaya shot and killed his daughter, Alyssa Celaya, 8, and three others: Irene Celaya, 60; Francisco Moreno, 61; and Bernard Franco, 53, also known as Bernard Moreno, all from the Tule Indian Reservation.
According to authorities, Celaya also shot and wounded his 6-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. The Fresno Bee reported Celaya’s son in critical condition and his daughter in serious condition Sunday evening at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Celaya was shot by law enforcement officers early Sunday morning after a low-speed chase on a country road 30 miles from the reservation. After a 911 caller had reported the gunfire, and stated the suspect fled in a jeep with his daughters, investigators tracked him by his cellphone.
When deputies attempted to pull the vehicle over, Celaya reportedly refused to stop and a low-speed chase ensued. Authorities say when the jeep stopped Celaya fired a gun and deputies returned fire. According to the department, the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave per department protocol on officer-involved shootings.
Although authorities have not revealed any motive for the shootings, in AP news reports, tribal authorities and tribal members have disclosed Celaya has had a troubled past.
“He’s had a hard life,” said Rhoda Hunter, Tule Tribal Council Secretary, “But all of us do. We all have a hard time. But we try not to let it get the best of us. We’ve had a lot of deaths here, but nothing like this. Not murder, no, not murder.”
After the 911 call to the Tule Reservation Fire Department at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Shelby Charley, Jr. said he and his crew were shocked by what they saw after discovering a woman and man dead of gunshot wounds and another young boy also wounded by gunshots.
"This is a once in a lifetime kind of deal," Charley said. "It's one of those calls you could go your whole career and not walk into. This is one of those calls that will stick with you for the rest of your life."
"This is so horrible. We will be doing a lot of praying," Hunter said.