Three men are dead and nine people are injured following a mass shooting during a Halloween party at a home in the Rose Park area late Tuesday night.
The shooter is still at large, and investigators are working to find out “who this coward is,” Police Chief Robert Luna said at a morning press conference near the scene of the shooting at Seventh Street and Temple Avenue.
The shooter appeared to fire indiscriminately from an alley behind the home, where 25 to 30 people had gathered for the party, police said. The shooter was described as a man wearing dark clothing with his face concealed, Luna said. After firing into the crowd in the backyard, he got into a dark-colored vehicle and fled the scene.
“It sounds like the suspect or suspects walked up to the location and then, it sounds like they may have run away and gotten into some kind of getaway car,” Luna said.
Luna described the shooting as one of the worst he’s seen in his 34 years at the department. “I can’t remember an incident where we had this many victims,” he told reporters. “It’s very tragic.”
The victims’ identities will be released by the coroner. Most of them lived outside of Long Beach, and worked together at one business, Luna said, declining to say where or in what city the business was located.
The man who rents the home where the shooting occurred, Chan Hou, said his son had asked to throw a birthday party at the home for one of his coworkers. Hou said he left briefly to go to his daughter’s house, where they were having a ceremony for her father-in-law who’d recently died.
“After that I go home,” he said. “15 minutes, they come shooting in the back yard.”
Hou said his family is OK, but some family friends were slain.
Luna said more than 100 police personnel responded to the scene throughout the night, and that officers had arrived less than a minute after the first call went out to dispatch at 10:44 p.m. Tuesday. “They arrived to a crime scene that was horrific; there was blood everywhere,” Luna said.
Emergency personnel immediately began tending to the many victims, who were transported to both Memorial Medical Center and St. Mary Medical Center.
Three men were determined dead at the scene, according to police spokeswoman Jennifer De Prez. Seven women and two men were injured in the gunfire and some are in critical condition, she said. They range from 20 to 49 years old. Police believe there might be additional victims who may have taken themselves to the hospital.
Patients, who were both inside and outside the home, were triaged at the chaotic scene before paramedics transported them to local hospitals, said Jake Heflin, spokesman for the Long Beach Fire Department.
Police said they are still looking into whether there was more than one suspect.
“We are looking at one shooter, but again the detectives are still trying to gather additional information, trying to get witness statements, victim statements,” De Prez said.
Police said they don’t have any evidence that the shooting was gang-related. A motive is unclear.
“That is the million dollar question,” Luna said. “Why would somebody do something this horrific? We don’t know.”
Nevertheless, police suspect the violence was targeted.
“I don’t believe this was just a random act of violence,” Luna said.
Brandon Pam said his step-brother and 29-year-old sister were at the party. She was shot in the back and leg five times but is expected to recover, he said. The family has been checking hospitals trying to find out what happened to the step-brother.
Pam’s sister told him she’d just gone outside to grab a drink from the cooler when she saw someone wearing a mask hop up on a fence and start shooting. She saw another heavyset man wearing a mask in the alley who also appeared to open fire, Pam said.
“At that time she started running until she realized she was hit,” Pam said.
Pam’s sister told him she heard about 20 shots. The men firing them hadn’t been attending the party, she said. They arrived as the festivities were already in swing.
“They were all just celebrating a birthday and also having a Halloween party and this—this was the outcome,” Pam said.
As dawn broke, forensics crews were still working in the back yard of the home. Behind a white metal fence that separates the yard from the alley, they snapped evidence photos amid Halloween decorations.
A neighbor across the alley said she’d heard the blast but didn’t realize it was gunfire until she heard screaming. She looked out her second-story window and saw her neighbors dashing inside.
“As soon as I heard everybody screaming and crying I knew they weren’t fireworks,” said Tina Isham, who could still see two bodies from her window.
As everyone rushed for cover, Isham said, she heard someone yelling for them to turn out the lights, and a woman screamed out the name “Tommy.”
Isham said she was just thankful she didn’t hear any kids’ voices. The family frequently has their children or grandchildren visiting, she said.
“It’s a very close-knit family because they have lots of friends and family from all over Long Beach that come to parties,” Isham said.
They also take care of three elderly people in wheelchairs who stay there at night, according to Isham.
Hou, who said he’s an elder care provider, was rolling one of those clients from the crime scene Wednesday morning. He loaded her into a car before rushing off. He said he’d just come from the police station after staying up all night giving interviews to investigators.
Coroner’s officials started the process of retrieving the three deceased victims at about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
At 10:44 pm, @lbfirefighters responded to shooting at a residence on the 2700 block of 7th Street. An MCI was declared with a total of 12 patients. 3 confirmed fatalities (adult males) 9 patients transported to local area hospitals. 5 immediate & 4 delayed. PIO onscene. pic.twitter.com/k8txxNqZfL
— Long Beach Fire (CA) (@LBFD) October 30, 2019
One resident said he was walking to a liquor store just a block away on the corner of Temple Avenue when he heard a white SUV swerving and accelerating ahead of him. He initially thought it might’ve been a drunk driver.
“Then all I hear is pop, pop, pop, a bunch of pops—maybe like 20 shots. It was a lot,” Lambert Alcendor said.
He said he ducked and ran back toward his home in the opposite direction.
“Normally it’s quiet around here,” he said. The gunshots “sounded like ‘Call Of Duty’.”
Hours after the shooting, one woman approached police and fire officials with tears in her eyes asking how she could find her cousin. Once told which hospital she should check, she quickly left.
A spokeswoman asked any witnesses or people with camera footage of the incident to notify the police department by calling 911.
Mayor Robert Garcia said on Twitter that is a “horrific and sad day in our city.”
At the press conference, he described the shooting as a “senseless act of gun violence,” and assured that police are doing all they can to find the shooter.
This is a horrific and sad day in our city. We have 3 dead and multiple injured in an act of tragic gun violence. The LBPD is working hard – please keep the vicitims and their families in your thoughts. We will have more information throughout the day.
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarcia) October 30, 2019
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more information about the victims from police.