The Fresno Police Department announced the formation of a special gang task force in response to Sunday night’s mass shooting that left four dead and six wounded in the backyard of a Southeast Fresno home. At least 35 people were at the home, and many of them there to watch a football game.
“We’re coming for you,” Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall said at a press conference Monday morning, addressing the two armed suspects who fled the incident. He said it’s unclear if the suspects fled on foot or by vehicle.
Hall said anytime there’s a major violent incident like this, police always consider possible criminal and gang activity and retaliation. He said he’s seen a recent spike in Southeast Asian gang activity, adding that this year, there have been 11 incidents involving Asian gangs. “We just want to get ahead of it,” he said. Hmong New Year celebrations, which attract thousands of people to the region, begin next month and culminate with a week-long festival at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
However, Hall said there’s no indication that the people living at the residence in the 5300 block of East Lamona Avenue near Caesar Avenue where the shooting took place were affiliated with a gang, and he said he’s had nothing but cooperation from community members.
Pao Yang, head of the non-profit organization The Fresno Center, agreed. “I don’t see any gang affiliation with these folks. These are people that are near and dear to us.”
He said two of the victims, one of whom died, are well known in the Hmong community.
“They come out and perform to our mental health clients, you know, every year,” he said. “A lot of these folks are scheduled to perform at the Hmong New Year.”
He said the community is in mourning.
“It’s a dark day in our community, not only in our Hmong community but I think in our Fresno community,” said Yang. The Coroner’s Office has released the names of the four victims; one of them is a well-known singer, 23-year-old Xy Lee. The others are: Phia Yang, 31; Kou Xiong, 38 and Kalaxang Thao, 40. All are from Fresno. Xiong lived at the house where the shooting happened.
Deputy Chief Pat Farmer will oversee the special task force. He said it will assist the homicide unit in solving this crime, but it will also focus on preventing acts of violence leading up to the Hmong New Year.
“We are going to use every resource available to us to solve this crime and prevent any future retaliation down the road,” said Farmer, adding that several federal and state agencies will assist with the investigation. “We are looking at this as a team effort to prevent future violence and hold those who committed this horrific act accountable.”
The ten-block neighborhood is made up mostly of Hmong and Hispanic families, said Capt. Anthony Martinez, who is the district commander overseeing the area where the shooting took place. The “scene of chaos” has shocked the whole neighborhood and the officers who responded to the call, he said. “They’re hurting a little bit in that neighborhood right now and my officers are hurting too,” he said.
Martinez said he has pulled three of his Southeast Asian officers who work in other units to help with translation and cultural understanding.
It’s his job, he said, “to make sure that we let them know we’re here with them and we are going to help them through this too, because that entire neighborhood was victimized when this took place.”