5 dead in Calif. reservation shootings

advertisement | advertise on newsday

PORTERVILLE, Calif. -- The church bell that rings out to announce the deaths of tribal members on the Tule River Indian Reservation tolled repeatedly Sunday after a man killed his mother and her two brothers in a shooting that also fatally wounded one of his daughters. Authorities said the suspect also died in a shootout with police.

Authorities cornered Hector Celaya, 31, on a country road 30 miles away from the reservation and about six hours after the shootings Saturday night.

In the car with him were two daughters Alyssa, 8, and Linea, 5. Authorities said Celaya was fatally wounded by deputies after he opened fire on them.

By last night, authorities confirmed that Alyssa died of her injuries. Two of his other children also were wounded.

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.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"He had a real hard life," said Rhoda Hunter, the tribal council secretary and a self-described friend of Celaya's mother. "But all of us do, we all have a hard time. But we try not to let it get the best of us."

The 911 call came to the Tule River Indian Reservation fire department at about 7:45 p.m. Saturday, said Shelby Charley Jr., an engineer and supervisor.

Charley said his crew discovered a woman and man dead of gunshot wounds, then found a critically wounded boy -- later identified by authorities as Celaya's son Andrew, 6. Authorities identified the dead as Hector Celaya's mother, Irene Celaya, 60, and her brother Francisco Moreno, 61. Bernard Franco, 53, another brother of Irene Celaya, also was found dead.

Tulare County sheriff's deputies found Celaya by tracking his cellphone. A chase ensued, though Celaya never exceeded the speed limit and sometimes slowed to 15 mph, police said. Celaya eventually pulled over and opened fire, prompting deputies to return fire, sheriff's spokeswoman Chris Douglass said. She said Celaya fired his gun "multiple times" and was shot during the exchange. He died hours later at a hospital.

It was unclear when Celaya shot the two girls, she said.


Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: