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5 killed, 2 injured in shooting

A man killed his daughter, his mother and 2 of her brothers in Tulare County. The gunman was shot.

December 10, 2012|Kate Mather
  • Tulare County sheriff's deputies shot and killed Hector Celaya, 31, in his car after a brief chase.
Tulare County sheriff's deputies shot and killed Hector Celaya,… (Associated Press, Bing…)

A gunman killed his daughter, his mother and two of her brothers in a rampage at the Tule River Indian Reservation, authorities said Sunday.

Hector Celaya, 31, shot his relatives and one of his daughters before dying early Sunday morning, the Tulare County Sheriff's Department said.

A 911 caller reported shots being fired shortly after 7:45 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of Chimney Road, on the rugged, isolated reservation in Central California. The caller said the gunman fled in a green Jeep Cherokee. Authorities said Celaya's daughters, ages 8 and 5, were with him.

Police tried to locate Celaya via his cellphone and an Amber Alert was issued, said sheriff's Sgt. Chris Douglass.

Hours later, a deputy spotted a green Jeep about 20 miles away, near the small town of Lindsay, Douglass said. The driver refused to stop, prompting a low-speed chase, with the vehicle sometimes moving 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. Deputies then opened fire on Celaya, Douglass said.

Celaya and one of his daughters, Alyssa, age 8, were found dead. 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 and thus don't know "if that's exactly when they were shot," Douglass said.

The Associated Press reported that the other victims were Celaya's mother, Irene Celaya, 60, and her brothers Francisco Moreno, 61, and Bernard Franco, 53.

Hector Celaya's son, Andrew, age 6, was also injured and 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 shooting.

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."

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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