The shooter as well as his brother's family are presumed dead, a surviving family member says
EAST LANSDOWNE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Authorities suspect that family members who died in a fire in East Lansdowne, Delaware County were killed by a relative who also shot and wounded two police officers, a prosecutor said Friday.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said at a news conference that six sets of remains have been recovered from the ashes of a fire that destroyed the home in East Lansdowne on Wednesday.
He said Canh Le, 43, is believed to have killed his niece and probably killed the others as well, and that Le also died.
"Our assumption is that they were shot by gunfire and then there was a fire set, but we have no idea whether or not that's true," he said.
Gunfire could be heard during a 911 call, and Stollsteimer said Le's mother told authorities he shot one of her grandchildren. Le's mother escaped the house to seek safety and summon help.
He said surviving family members have been in shock, and no motive has been identified.
"They don't really have any idea, he just went haywire," he said.
Stollsteimer said remains believed to be Canh Le's were found near a gun that was also recovered from the fire remnants.
Court records show that Canh Le was arrested in 2006 in Delaware County and charged with making terroristic threats, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Details of the incident were not immediately available, but the first charge was later dropped and he was put in a diversion program on the two lesser charges, leading him to serve 32 hours of community service and pay $1,400 in fines during a year of probation.
Authorities say police encountered gunfire as they responded to a call for a child - eventually identified as the niece - who was shot Wednesday afternoon at the home. The structure went up in flames as two police officers were shot and injured.
The mother of Canh Le said her other son, Xuong Le, and his wife, Britni McLaughlin-Le, as well as their three children, NaKayla, 13, NaTayla, 17, and Xavier, 10, are also presumed dead.
"Britni and Xuoug were a happily married couple for 17 years, loving and devoted parents to their three children, their extended family, and their beloved friends," the McLaughlin family said in a statement.
"Our hearts are broken and we vow to cherish the memories of our loved ones and we will work to ensure that their legacies live on," the statement continued.
NaKayla was a dancer at Cathie Collins Dance studio in Aldan.
"NaKayla was an amazing girl, talented dancer and an incredible friend. She will be missed," the studio posted on its Facebook page.
Balloons and teddy bears could be seen sitting just feet from the home as the community begins the healing process.
"I've seen these kids walk to and from school. I've seen these kids at our community events. East Lansdowne is in pain," said East Lansdowne Mayor Majovie Bland.
The owner of Cathie Collins School of Dance says NaKayla would have been dancing this weekend. One of the competition dances that she would have been in will be dedicated to her throughout this season.
"She would normally be at practice tomorrow so I'm sure it's going to be a rough day for the girls but we'll keep her in our hearts," said owner Jenna DeVito.
The second officer injured after being shot Wednesday while responding to the home was released Friday afternoon.
Officer John Meehan, 44, of the East Lansdowne Police Department, got a hero's welcome as he left the hospital - with police from all over Delaware County lined up to honor him -- a similar procession to what we saw Thursday for 54-year-old Lansdowne Police Officer David Schiazza.
Officer Schiazza, who was wounded in the leg, was discharged from Penn Presbyterian Hospital at 3 p.m. Thursday. He was rolled out in a wheelchair and greeted by rows of fellow officers who stood at attention and saluted. He waved and flashed a thumbs-up sign through the passenger-side window as he was driven away.
"He is going home to his family. The hero that he is," Stollsteimer said.
Officer Meehan stayed an extra day after requiring a lengthy surgery to his arm, according to officials.
Both officers have more than two decades with their respective departments.
DA Jack Stollsteimer provides update on shooting the injured 2 officers in East Lansdowne
"It was because of the Upper Darby Police Department, who also responded to that call, that these officers are alive today. They were dragged out of danger by Upper Darby police officers," said Stollsteimer. "Everybody in law enforcement and Delaware County works together."
"I just can't thank these officers and this team enough for the heroism displayed every single day by our police officers throughout the county, or particularly today. I can't thank Upper Darby police officers enough for what they did to drag these two gentlemen away from the gunfire - or we might be having a whole different conversation tonight about what happened," Stollsteimer added.
It all began with a 911 call reporting that a child had been shot. A fire then erupted in the home at 58 Lewis Ave. shortly after gunfire. The incident left two police officers injured and the home in ruins.
"We're still at the stage of trying to get into the house bit by bit and recover bodies and evidence," Stollsteimer said.
Canh's mother, Chin Le, told Action News through a translator that she heard him arguing with his 13-year-old niece in an upstairs bedroom.
She said she heard Canh say he was going to get a gun. That's when her husband took her out of the home and the shots were fired.
Chin said it was her husband who called 911.
Police were immediately met by gunfire when they arrived at the scene Wednesday afternoon and two officers -- one from the Lansdowne Police Department and another from the East Lansdowne Police Department -- were both shot.
CHOPPER VIDEO: Officers shot while responding to shooting involving child
During the chaos, Upper Darby police were able to quickly grab ballistic shields and dragged the injured officers to safety.
Stollsteimer said about 15 minutes after officers arrived, someone inside the home started a fire. The house quickly went up in flames as first responders stood back for safety reasons.
Sources told Action News on Thursday that the shooter was believed to be firing from the third floor of the house.
Upper Darby Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt described a volatile and dangerous scene when officers from his department responded to the home and were able to rescue the two wounded officers.
"All officers that were on the scene initially were taking on fire, and then when they removed themselves from it, there was no more gunfire at that point," Bernhardt said.
Chopper video also showed one officer being carried away from the scene and being put in an ambulance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.