BARLING, Ark. (AP) – Four siblings killed in a shooting rampage at a Grand Prairie roller rink were remembered Saturday as a part of a tight-knit family, even as the hundreds gathered in an Arkansas church to mourn them tried to make sense of the tragedy.
More than 400 people attended a service for Trini Do, 29, her sisters, Lynn Ta, 16, and Michelle Ta, 28, and her brother, Hien Ta, 21. Trini Do’s estranged husband, Tan Do, 35, shot her and her siblings during a birthday party for their 11-year-old son and then killed himself.
Police in Grand Prairie, Texas, have said they believe the shooting was planned and followed years of domestic violence. Trini Do received a protective order in December against her husband, but she had it withdrawn earlier this year against a prosecutor’s advice and wanted to give him another chance, an aunt has said.
The fifth victim in the shooting rampage, Thuy Nguyen, 25, was Trini Do’s sister-in-law. She will be buried in Vietnam.
Four others were wounded in the rampage, but police said their injuries were not life-threatening.
The siblings’ deaths have shaken the immigrant community in western Arkansas, where more than 1,300 Vietnamese live in the Fort Smith area. Trini Do and her seven siblings moved to Fort Smith from Vietnam in 1994.
Their friends and relatives gathered Saturday in the Sacred Heart of Mary Church in nearby Barling. A choir performed a hymn in Vietnamese entitled “Coming Home” as the caskets were escorted into the auditorium. Children carried framed photos of the dead, and a procession of relatives followed. Many youth tied white strips of cloth around their foreheads as a sign of respect.
The Rev. Peter Quang Le, in a homily delivered primarily in Vietnamese, described how many were still in disbelief after the shootings, even after seeing the bodies of the dead.
“We cannot understand it,” he said.
Le asked the audience not to be angry or seek revenge, but to pray for the victims and their family.
“The psychological wounds because of violence in the minds of (the Ta) family will endure all their lives,” he said.
Everyone in the auditorium stood, raised their right hand and turned toward Le as he touched the chest of Hoi Ta, the siblings’ father, and prayed. Ta stood in silence, his arms crossed and his shirt sleeves rolled.
When the caskets were opened at the end of the service, Hoi Ta led a long line of mourners to the bodies. He leaned into the faces of his children and whispered a few quiet words to each.
Trini Do’s aunt, Janice Tran, and other relatives remembered her as a good-natured person who worked two jobs and loved to travel.
“When you talked to her, you know what kind of person (she was),” Tran said.
Relatives remembered Lynn Ta, who attended a Fort Smith high school, for her smile and passion for taking photos with her friends. Michelle Ta loved to shop and cook, they said. Hien Ta was an avid swimmer and basketball player.
The siblings were among about 30 friends and family who attended the private party at the rented roller rink. A DJ at the rink told The Associated Press that guests had just finished singing “Happy Birthday” to the couple’s son when Tan Do spoke to him briefly, then pulled out a gun and shot Trini Do and her relatives.
One of Trini Do’s four surviving siblings was wounded in the rampage and remains hospitalized, Tran said. Trini and Tran Do’s son and his 3-year-old sister were not injured in the shootings and have been in the care of other relatives. Tran said they were at the funeral.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)