A Hmong New Year’s festival in Tulsa, Oklahoma came to an abrupt end Saturday night when a gunman open fired on celebrators, shooting five people. Families took cover under tables in the Tulsa event center as bullet flew. Fortunately, lucky timing lead police to quickly track and arrest two men suspected of being involved with the shooting.
As New York Daily News reports, witnesses describe a man dressed in black approaching a group of people lined up to get food during the celebration. Without a word the man began firing into the unaware crowd. Police say five people were shot, two in the torso and others in limbs. Fortunately no mortal injuries were reported, however at least one person may lose a leg.
Some say panic broke out as the shooting began, with people screaming and running. However the master of ceremonies quickly used the PA system to direct frightened people to safety. At one point the MC asked scared families to sit down and hide under their tables.
According to Huffington Post, a police helicopter was in the air near the event center in Tulsa when the shooting began. Flying over the scene, officers in the helicopter spotted a suspicious vehicle fleeing the area without its headlights on. This lead to the arrest of two suspects, seen throwing a black sweatshirt and a semiautomatic handgun out the car’s window.
The suspects were identified as Meng Lee, 19, and Boonmlee Lee, 21. Police believe Boonmlee was the gunman, but his motives remain a mystery. Authorities say both men are Hmong, like the group of people gathered for the New Year’s celebration, and may be linked to the shooting victims.
The Hmong are an ethnic group that comes from southeast Asia, mainly Laos. Saturday’s festival was a gathering of several hundred Hmong immigrants or descendants celebrating the beginning of their New Year.
[Images via Tulsa Police Department]