CLINTON, Miss. (AP) — Vicki Van says there was a time when she called the man accused of killing her nephew and three others a friend. Now she's struggling to understand why the 34-year-old nail salon owner would commit such bloodshed during a violent police standoff at a home in Mississippi.
"All the customers liked him," Van said of Nam Le, the accused gunman who was also wounded by gunfire and later died after the Feb. 16 hostage standoff. "Something must have triggered him to do stuff like that. We don't know."
In interviews with news outlets, Van laid out the relationships between the five people who perished, whose names had previously been released by authorities.
Van told the Clarion Ledger she's an aunt of Dr. Phung Minh Le, 28, one of the victims who was a resident in internal medicine at a hospital in Houma, Louisiana. She said his fiancee, 28-year-old Le Thi My Van, was also killed in the standoff.
Van Lee said Nam Le's wife, 30-year-old Lan Thi My Van, and a family friend and babysitter, 65-year-old Cho Thi Van, were the two others slain. Two daughters of the accused gunman and his wife, ages 4 and 5, were released unharmed from the home several hours into the standoff.
Vicki Van told WJTV-TV the two girls are staying with an uncle.
Phung Le was Vicki Van's cousin's son, and per Vietnamese tradition, they called each other nephew and "auntie," she said. On his days off, he drove across state lines to work at Nail Envy, Nam Le's business in Hazlehurst. She said it was a secret he kept from most of his family, afraid his parents would not understand why a doctor spent his free time doing manicures and pedicures. But he just wanted to help and be with his fiancee who worked there.
Authorities said the standoff started when shots were fired at officers checking on a domestic call. They said the suspect went back inside the home and refused to come out.
Officers fired shots during the standoff, but a statement from Mississippi Public Safety Department spokesman Capt. John Poulos did not say whether Nam Le shot himself or was wounded by officers. Hinds County Coroner Sharon Gresham Stewart said he died at a hospital.