US community mourns shooting deaths

2012-12-10 14:00
Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California. (Tracie Cone, AP)

Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California. (Tracie Cone, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Porterville - The church bell that rings out to announce the deaths of tribal members on the Tule River Indian Reservation tolled repeatedly on Sunday after a man went on a shooting rampage that left a daughter, his mother and her two brothers dead. The suspect also died in a shootout with police.

Authorities cornered Hector Celaya, aged 31, on a country road in the middle of citrus orchards 48km away from the reservation and about six hours after the shootings on Saturday night, that also left two of his other children wounded.

In the car with him were two daughters, 8-year-old Alyssa and 5-year-old Linea. One had life-threatening injuries; the other did not.

Authorities said Celaya was fatally wounded by deputies after he opened fire on them.

By Sunday night, authorities confirmed that Alyssa died of her injuries. Police said Celaya had a tattoo of her name on his right leg.

Authorities have not disclosed what motivated Celaya to kill his relatives, who lived in a travel trailer on a family compound on the reservation of about 800 people. But tribal members said the former custodian at the reservation's casino had a troubled past.

Community stunned

"He had a real hard life," said Rhoda Hunter, the 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."

Hunter said that Celaya's mother was a friend of hers. The Tulare County sheriff's department, which is investigating the case, identified her 60-year-old Irene Celaya.

The killings stunned the tightknit tribal community.

"We've had a lot of deaths here, but nothing like this. Not murder. No, not murder," Hunter said.

The remote reservation relies on the Eagle Mountain Casino for revenues. Each tribal member receives $500 a month, but Hunter said most of the profit is invested into educational programmes for the children.

The compound where the shooting took place is on a dirt road in a scenic canyon lined with oaks and sycamore trees. Herds of horses graze the hillsides, and modular houses sit on hilltops.

Helicopters grounded

The 911 call came to the Tule River Indian Reservation fire department at about 19:45 on Saturday, said Shelby Charley Jnr, an engineer and supervisor. He said his crew, which most often attends to people who fall ill at the casino, was shocked by the carnage.

"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."

Charley said his crew immediately discovered a woman and man dead of gunshot wounds, then quickly discovered a young boy with critical wounds. Thick fog grounded helicopters in Fresno and Bakersfield, so rescue workers had to drive the gravely injured boy 40 minutes to the nearest hospital in Visalia.

Minutes later, sheriff's deputies found a third body in an outbuilding that had been set up as a makeshift bedroom. Authorities said the bodies of Irene Celaya and her 61-year-old brother Francisco Moreno were found in the trailer. The body of their 53-year-old brother, Bernard Franco, was in the shed.

The wounded boy was identified as Celaya's 6-year-old son, Andrew.

Deputies found Celaya by tracking his cellphone. A chase ensued, though Celaya never exceeded the speed limit and sometimes slowed to 24km, police said.

Known to law enforcement

He eventually pulled over in a rural area deep in the heart of citrus country outside the tiny community of Lindsay, about 48km from the reservation. Celaya opened fire, prompting deputies to return fire, sheriff's spokesperson Chris Douglass said.

She did not say how many shots were fired, but said Celaya fired his gun "multiple times". Celaya was shot during the exchange of gunfire, Douglass said. He died hours later at a hospital.

It was unclear when Celaya shot his daughters, Douglass said.

Police said Celaya was "known to law enforcement" and "known to use drugs", though Douglass could not provide details.

On the steps of Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, Hunter said she has never known such tragedy. The church bell echoed through the reservation on Sunday as news of each death made its way to tribal authorities.

"This is so horrible. We will be doing a lot of praying," Hunter said.


- SAPA

Read more on:    us
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Cape Town - 17:20 PM
    Road name: Nelson Mandela Boulevard Outbound
    Earlier STATIONARY VEHICLE before Hospital Bend has been CLEARED - DELAYS from Strand Street
  • Tuesday Athlone - 17:19 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive Southbound
    DELAYS between Viking Way and the Klipfontein Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Tab P7500 10.1" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 gives you a better experience for...

From R4999.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.