A day after four men were killed and six others wounded in one of Fresno’s worst mass-shooting tragedies, police pushed back against the violence, forming a special investigations task force and announcing thousands of dollars in reward money.
The violence erupted at 7:48 p.m. Sunday at a Fresno home after gunmen armed with semi-automatic handguns opened fire on partygoers watching a Sunday night football game. The shooters entered the backyard through an unlocked gate. About 35 people were at the home where the gunfire broke out. The vicious attack left four dead and six wounded.
“It was a horrific scene,” Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall told reporters.
Hall said 16 men were outside the home when the shooting started. Women and children were inside as at least two gunmen entered the yard and began firing.
The shooters then ran from the yard. It isn’t known whether they escaped in a vehicle, and police Monday were going house-to-house to find witnesses and video evidence.
Saying “we’re coming for you” to the shooters, Hall said his department’s goal was to solve the mass casualty incident and heal the community by providing services to victims and their families.
The chief said 60 officers are already working on the case, and officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and Homeland Security are also involved in the effort to apprehend at least two suspects.
However, police also acknowledged they had little information on the shooters. Witnesses could not describe the attackers to police and many only saw the muzzle flashes from the firearms.
“It was too dark on that side of the house to see the suspects,” Hall said.
Hall acknowledged investigators don’t know the race of the shooters. Hall also acknowledged it appeared to be a targeted act. He declined to go into details about the exact type of firearms used, the calibers or the number of shots fired.
Hall said none of the victims have ties to criminal street gangs and described the investigation’s gang emphasis as precautionary.
“At this point, we have not ruled gang involvement out,” Hall said.
The chief said investigators are looking into the possibility of a connection between an incident earlier in the week and Sunday’s violence, but declined to elaborate.
The chief was also asked about a homicide earlier Sunday, when a man identified as Randy Xiong, 28, was shot to death. Hall said in that case, a gunman forced his way into a home and opened fire on Xiong. Police were not linking the two shootings Monday. Hall also noted there have been three violent incidents involving the Asian-American community in November and 11 in 2019.
Deputy Chief Pat Farmer, who is heading up the task force, said his mission is to “solve (the case) and “prevent retaliation.” Farmer noted that the city’s popular Hmong New Year events are coming up. Special police units, including a gang task force and detectives normally assigned to auto theft, are being assigned to the new unit.
Valley Crime Stoppers on Monday offered a $5,000 cash reward for information leading to the capture of the shooters. The Fresno City Council planned a special meeting Tuesday to discuss adding to the Crime Stoppers reward fund.
Four men, identified as singer Xy Lee, 23; Phia Vang, 31; Kou Xiong, 38; and Kalaxang Thao, 40, were killed in the shootings. All were from Fresno. Xiong lived at the home.
Six others, ranging in age from 28 to 36, were wounded.
Two of the victims remained hospitalized Monday in stable condition.
Capt. Anthony Martinez, who oversees the Southeast Policing District where the shooting took place, said “the whole neighborhood was victimized.”
“This is an emergency. We are doing all we can to calm things down.”
Martinez said the violence was traumatic for his officers as well as victims and their families.
“I had 12 officers respond to the scene of chaos. Two officers were covered in blood, (as they tried to render aid to victims.)
“They are hurting in the neighborhood, and our officers are hurting.”