Bodies of 5 victims and apparent shooter recovered from Philadelphia-area house set on fire as responding police were shot

Feb 9, 2024, 1:17 PM

Police on the scene of a possible active shooter situation in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, on Febr...

Police on the scene of a possible active shooter situation in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, on February 7. Mandatory Credit: KYW

(CNN) — Authorities believe they have recovered the bodies of all five family members from a burned-out home near Philadelphia, along with the remains of the relative suspected of unleashing gunfire there Wednesday as police arrived, a prosecutor said Friday.

A grandmother identified her son – Canh Le, 43 – as the man who began firing with relatives in the home, she told CNN affiliate WPVI.

“Our assumption is that they were shot by gunfire and then there was a fire set,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said during a news conference.

“If the torso recovered with the firearm is, in fact, (the shooter), the criminal investigation will be closed because we will have found the person we believe at least killed one person in this home and probably killed all the others himself,” Stollsteimer said Friday.

A medical examiner now will use DNA and dental records to try to identify each set of remains, along with the manner and cause of death, and the home in East Lansdowne will be handed over the city and torn down, Stollsteimer added.

Le on Wednesday argued with and told his 13-year-old niece he was going to get a gun, Chin Le told CNN affiliate WPVI. Then, his mother and her husband left the house, and he called 911, she told WPVI.

Three adults and three children had been feared dead, Stollsteimer said Thursday. Canh Le, along with Chin Le’s other son, Xuong Le, and his wife, Britni Le, were believed to have died, along with their children: NaKayla, 13, NaTalya, 17, and Xavier, 10, the grandmother told WPVI.

Officials had believed the person who shot at the officers responding to a report a child had been shot at the home was among those in the home, Stollsteimer said in a Wednesday news conference and an interview with CNN affiliate KYW-TV.

Authorities Thursday recovered the torso and a rifle from the “unstable” home as detectives methodically combed the crime scene with excavation experts and a drone, the district attorney said. Nobody had been left alive inside, he said.

The recovery process may take “hours” or even “days,” Stollsteimer said Thursday.

Authorities had been working to nail down “whether or not an 11-year-old girl was or was not shot,” as well as who shot the officers, Stollsteimer said Wednesday. Also among the lingering questions is how and when the fire started – and who started it.

A chaotic scene unfolded in and around the home Wednesday as flames swallowed most of the structure, leaving nothing but a charred shell that released massive black smoke plumes, footage from CNN affiliate WPVI shows.

With the fire still raging, an armored vehicle at one point rammed the house, WPVI footage shows.

“I heard a lot of gunshots … and I just (saw) cops running from everywhere,” one neighbor told WPVI, adding they heard authorities yelling about an “active shooter.”

The family had lived in the house for at least five years, a neighbor told CNN.

Responding officers ‘met by gunfire’

Earlier Wednesday, a person had been barricaded in the house, a Delaware County law enforcement source told CNN.

Authorities then got a 911 call just before 3:50 p.m. Wednesday reporting “an 11-year-old girl had been shot” at the home in a borough a few miles west of downtown Philadelphia, Stollsteimer said at the news conference.

Someone claiming to be a child apparently called police and said they had been shot, another source briefed on the situation told CNN, adding it was unclear whether a child had actually been shot.

Officers from three agencies responded and were “immediately met by gunfire,” Stollsteimer said. Two officers were struck and “dragged out of danger” by colleagues, he said.

Officer David Schiazza, 54, of the Lansdowne Police Department, suffered a gunshot wound to his leg, Stollsteimer said; he was released Thursday afternoon from a Philadelphia hospital. Officer John Meehan, 44, of the East Lansdowne Police Department, suffered a gunshot wound to his left arm that required a lengthy surgery, he said; he was expected to be released by Friday. Both are 22-year veterans with their respective departments, he said.

After officers responded, the house was set ablaze, Stollsteimer said. The block was emptied of people and the fire brought mostly under control, though it still smoldered Wednesday night, Stollsteimer said at that time.

The William Penn School District is providing counselors to support students and staff, it said in a statement. “This is a time when we need to be there for each other and to provide reassurance for our students, as it is impossible to make sense of what occurred,” the district said.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Alisha Ebrahimji, Amy Simonson, Yan Kaner, Christina Maxouris and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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Bodies of 5 victims and apparent shooter recovered from Philadelphia-area house set on fire as responding police were shot