Gunfire that left five people injured at a traditional Hmong New Year’s festival rattled a peaceful, tight-knit east Tulsa community, where some feared Sunday the rampage could deter others from attending upcoming cultural celebrations.
“It’s really sad because a lot of people do not feel safe to go to the other New Year’s celebrations. I know there are people who don’t want to attend that anymore,” said Joua Xiong, who attended Saturday’s celebration along with hundreds of other Hmong people and heard the gunfire break out. “It’s very sad because this is the only time we really get to embrace our culture and unite as one.
“And I know a lot of other people will not come (to the Oct. 26-27 event) because of that,” she said.
Hmong are an Asian ethnic group hailing from countries including Laos, China, Vietnam and Thailand. The Hmong population in Tulsa is between 3,000 and 4,000. Many Hmong have traveled to Tulsa from across the country during recent years seeking jobs.
Two men have been taken into custody and face multiple charges in the shooting of five people at Saturday’s festival, authorities said Sunday. Authorities were holding 21-year-old Boonmlee Lee and 19-year-old Meng Lee, both of Tulsa. Each faces five counts of shooting with intent to kill plus firearms charges.
It was not clear from jail records whether each had an attorney. An arraignment is pending.
Tulsa police spokesman Capt. Steve Odom said a gun was recovered but that it will have to be tested to see if it is linked to the Saturday night shooting. Odom said the alleged shooters and the victims were all Hmong and that there was “probably a relationship” between the men charged and the victims.
The suspects were arrested shortly after the attack, which happened about 8 p.m. A police helicopter that was in the area spotted a car driving away from the scene with its headlights off and notified officers on the ground, who pulled it over.