Tulare County shooting a ‘once-in-a-lifetime call,’ responder says
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It was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime call,’ one that Shelby Charley Jr. said he hoped to never hear.
“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. “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 guessed was no older than a second-grader — injured. The body of a man who had also been shot was found in a nearby shed, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department said.
A 911 caller had reported the shots shortly after 7:45 p.m. in the 100 block of Chimney Road, part of the rugged, isolated reservation located about 60 miles northeast of Bakersfield. The caller said the suspected gunman fled in a Jeep, his 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters in tow.
Authorities identified their suspect as Hector Celaya, 31, and, using his cellphone, were able to track the Jeep, sheriff’s officials said. About 2 a.m., authorities found the vehicle some 20 miles away, near the small town of Lindsay.
They tried to pull the vehicle over, but the driver didn’t stop, resulting in a low-speed chase in which the vehicle sometimes traveled less than 15 mph. The Jeep eventually stopped and deputies saw Celaya fire a gun, authorities said. They then shot at the suspect.
Celaya suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Douglass said Celaya also shot his daughters at some point, though investigators were still trying to determine when. One of the girls was being treated for life-threatening wounds; the conditions of both were not immediately known Sunday afternoon.
Douglass declined to provide details on a motive, citing the ongoing investigation. Sheriff’s officials said Celaya, who lived on the reservation, was ‘known to law enforcement’ and ‘is 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,’ it read.
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— Kate Mather