Vigil held for family killed in East Lansdowne shooting, house fire

As loved ones process the tragic loss, NaKayla's friends say the 13-year-old will never be forgotten.

Briana Smith Image
Sunday, February 11, 2024
Vigil held for family killed in East Lansdowne shooting, house fire
Vigil held for family killed in East Lansdowne shooting, house fire

EAST LANSDOWNE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A family who died after a shooting and house fire broke out in East Lansdowne, Delaware County on Wednesday were honored with a vigil held by their community.

Pink and blue balloons soared into the sky on Saturday afternoon in Yeadon Community Park to remember the Le family.

Loved ones gathered to recognize Xuong Le, his wife Britni McLaughlin-Le, 10-year-old Xavier, 13-year-old NaKayla, and 17-year-old NaTalya.

PICTURED: Britni McLaughlin-Le, 37, Xuoug Le, 40, and their three children, Natalya, 17, Nakayla, 13, and Xavier, 10.

Their remains were recovered from the ashes of the massive fire that destroyed a home on Lewis Avenue in East Lansdowne.

READ | Crews demolish East Lansdowne home after remains recovered: 'We think we have found everybody'

Crews demolish East Lansdowne home after remains recovered: 'We think we have found everybody'

Outside the now-demolished home, a memorial was built to honor the Le family. Flowers, toys, and candles that bear the family's names now sit beyond the rubble.

Britni McLaughlin-Le's father, John McLaughlin, attended the vigil, where he told the crowd about his daughter's life.

He said she had been married to her husband for 17 years.

"After I met him and they got married, there became a point in my life where I said, 'I can die today because I know he got them.' And they lived a full, wonderful life," he said.

"This is an unimaginable loss that no one can fathom or expect to prepare for, but we can see how much they were loved by the community," added Britni's sister.

Authorities believe Xuong Le's brother, 43-year-old Canh Le, was the shooter in this incident.

Investigators suspect Canh Le shot and killed the members of his family, plus two police officers before the house went up in flames.

The two injured police officers, identified as John Meehan and David Schiazza, have since been treated and released from the hospital.

WATCH | 2nd officer shot released from hospital

Officer John Meehan, 44, of the East Lansdowne Police Department, left the hospital Friday afternoon

Canh Le's mother told Action News that Canh was arguing with his 13-year-old neice before going to grab a gun.

No motive has been identified in this incident so far.

After all six sets of remains were recovered from the massive blaze, medical examiners are now working to determine the causes of death for the three adults and three children.

"As hard as it is, we are grateful that none had to survive the other and live through such a horrific event. And know that they all died the same way they lived, which was together," noted Britni's brother, Justin McLaughlin.

As loved ones process the tragic loss, NaKayla's friends say the 13-year-old will never be forgotten.

"I wish I could have said goodbye, and she would always be my friend no matter what," said Katelyn Morales, a friend of the victim.

"No matter how young she was, she lived a really fulfilling life and it's a shame we lost her. I would have loved for anyone to meet her and her family," added Ashley Sanchez, another friend of NaKayla.

What we know about the victims

Xuong Le, his wife Britni McLaughlin-Le, as well as their three children, NaTayla, NaKayla, and Xavier are 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.

The shooter and brother's family are presumed dead, surviving family members say

"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, a 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.

How the incident unfolded

The incident on Wednesday began with a 911 call reporting that a child had been shot. A fire then erupted in the home at 58 Lewis Avenue shortly after shots were fired.

The incident left two police officers injured and the home in ruins.

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.

CHOPPER VIDEO | Officers shot while responding to shooting involving child

2 officers shot in East Lansdowne, Delaware County

Chin said it was her husband who called 911.

Police were immediately met by gunfire when they arrived at the scene and two officers -- one from the Lansdowne Police Department and another from the East Lansdowne Police Department -- were both shot.

During the chaos, Upper Darby police were able to quickly grab ballistic shields and dragged the injured officers to safety.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said about 15 minutes after officers arrived, the home caught 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.

WATCH | Officer carried to safety after being shot in East Lansdowne

Chopper video: Officers dragged to safety after being shot in Delaware County