Investigators focus on suspect in Philadelphia area fire and shooting that left 6 dead, 2 hurt

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Authorities suspect that family members who died in a fire outside Philadelphia were killed by a relative who also shot and wounded two police officers, a prosecutor said Friday.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said at a news conference that six sets of remains have been recovered from the ashes of a fire that destroyed the home in East Lansdowne on Wednesday.

He said Canh Le, 43, is believed to have killed his niece and probably killed the others as well, and that Le also died.

“Our assumption is that they were shot by gunfire and then there was a fire set, but we have no idea whether or not that's true,” he said.

Gunfire could be heard during a 911 call, and Stollsteimer said Le's mother told authorities he shot one of her grandchildren. Le's mother escaped the house to seek safety and summon help.

He said surviving family members have been in shock, and no motive has been identified.

“They don't really have any idea, he just went haywire,” he said.

Margie McAboy, spokeswoman for the Delaware County district attorney's office, confirmed the victims are believed to be Canh Le's brother, Xuong Le, 40; Xuong Le's wife, Britni McLaughlin Le, 37; and the couple's three children.

Stollsteimer said remains believed to be Canh Le's were found near a gun that was also recovered from the fire remnants.

Court records show that Canh Le was arrested in 2006 in Delaware County and charged with making terroristic threats, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Details of the incident were not immediately available, but the first charge was later dropped and he was put in a diversion program on the two lesser charges, leading him to serve 32 hours of community service and pay $1,400 in fines during a year of probation.

Authorities say police encountered gunfire as they responded to a call for a child — eventually identified as the niece — who was shot Wednesday afternoon at the home. The structure went up in flames as two police officers were shot and injured.

One of the wounded officers, 44-year-old John Meehan of the East Lansdowne department, was greeted by fellow officers and well-wishers with applause, handshakes and hugs as he was discharged Friday after surgery for a left forearm wound. Lansdowne Officer David Schiazza, 54, was released from a hospital on Thursday after being treated for a leg wound.

Stollsteimer has said officers from Upper Darby saved the lives of the two wounded officers by dragging them to safety.

East Lansdowne is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of downtown Philadelphia.


Scolforo reported from Harrisburg.