(MCT) — LOS ANGELES — It was a “once-in-a-lifetime call,” Shelby Charley Jr. said. The kind emergency workers hope to never get.
“One moment we’re here at the firehouse joking around, getting ready to eat some dinner,” said Charley, an engineer at the Tule River Fire Department in Tulare County, Calif.. “Next thing we know, we’re walking into a murder.”
Charley was one of the first responders called to a trailer on the Tule River Indian Reservation on Saturday evening, where authorities found a man and woman shot to death and a boy — who Charley said was no older than a second-grader — wounded. As Charley and his crew began to drive away with the boy, authorities found another man fatally shot in a nearby shed.
“You don’t ever want to imagine this kind of call,” Charley said.
A 911 caller reported the shots shortly after 7:45 p.m. PST on Chimney Road, on the rugged, isolated reservation in Central California. According to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, the caller said the gunman fled in a green Jeep Cherokee. Authorities said his daughters, ages 8 and 5, were with him.
Authorities identified the suspected gunman as Hector Celaya, 31, who lives on the reservation. They tried to locate him using his cellphone. An Amber Alert was also issued, sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Douglass said, because Celaya was considered armed and dangerous.
Hours later, a deputy spotted a green Jeep about 20 miles away, near the small town of Lindsay, Douglass said. The deputy tried to pull the vehicle over, but the driver didn’t stop, prompting a low-speed chase, with the vehicle sometimes crawling at less than 15 mph.
“It wasn’t a major pursuit,” Douglass said. “He just would not pull over.”
Shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, the Jeep stopped. Deputies saw the suspect fire a gun inside the vehicle and shot at him, Douglass said.
Celaya died, as did one of his daughters, Alyssa Celaya, 8. Linea Celaya, 5, was admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Douglass said Celaya shot both girls at some point, but it was not clear when. Deputies could not see the girls when Celaya fired his gun, she said, and thus don’t know “if that’s exactly when” they were shot.
Authorities identified the other victims as Irene Celaya, 60; Francisco Moreno, 61; and Bernard Franco, 53. Authorities said the victims were related to Hector Celaya, but did not specify how.
The boy authorities took to the hospital was Hector Celaya’s son, Andrew, age 6. He remains hospitalized.
The Tule River tribe’s website described its 139-year-old, 85-acre reservation as a “remote rural area” “accessible only by one winding paved road.” “It is isolated in a rugged setting that allows for privacy and for development independent from urban or recreational sprawl,” the website said. The nearest city, Porterville, is about 20 miles west.
The reservation has its own security, but Douglass said the Sheriff’s Department was heading the investigation.
Reservation officials could not be reached for comment Sunday. A woman who answered the phone for the security department declined to speak about the incident.
Douglass declined to elaborate on a motive for the shootings but said authorities “were aware” of Celaya, who was “known to use drugs.”
When describing Celaya in their initial alert about the crime, authorities noted his tattoos: a shark on his stomach and, on his right leg, the name of his 8-year-old daughter: “Alyssa.”