Holiday Shooting Claims 3 in African Immigrant Family in California

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A young Eritrean widow and two family members were shot to death as they celebrated Thanksgiving, and two of her late husband's brothers were arrested, authorities said.

The deaths Thursday shocked members of the city's tightly knit Eritrean immigrant community, some of whom gathered Friday at the north Oakland apartment complex where the victims lived, sobbing and wailing.

Asmerom Gebreselassie, 43, and Temodros Gebreselassie, 39, his suspected accomplice, were arrested late Thursday and booked on suspicion of three counts of murder. The older brother admitted being the shooter in the incident, which apparently was in retaliation for the death of a third brother, Abraham, this year, Officer Roland Holmgren said.

The victims were Abraham's widow, Winta T. Mehari, 28; her mother, Regba Baharengasi; and her brother Yonas Mehari, a 17-year-old high school student.

"The (suspects) believed that ... the story didn't add up for the death of their brother," Holmgren said. "(Winta Mehari) maybe had some involvement or wasn't being fully truthful about it."

Two other Mehari brothers were injured, one of them critically hurt when he jumped out a window to escape the violence. Holmgren said he was expected to survive but may be paralyzed.

The family was originally from Asmara, capital of the African nation of Eritrea, and had been in the U.S. about five years.

Abraham Gebreselassie, who was 42, died in March, leaving his wife and 2-year-old son. A spokesman for the coroner's office said the death was described as undetermined, meaning an autopsy failed to reveal a specific cause.

After the shooting, the brothers fled to an apartment of relatives in the same sprawling complex, and they were later arrested, Holmgren said.

The triple killing brings Oakland's homicide total for the year to 138. Last year, there were 94.

Thousands of Eritreans came to the U.S. during or after their country's 30-year war of independence with Ethiopia, which ended in 1991. According to the Eritrean Consulate, 7,000 settled in the San Francisco Bay area, about 2,000 of those in Oakland.