TULSA, Okla. (AP) – One of two men accused of shooting five people at a Hmong New Year’s festival in Tulsa last month pleaded not guilty Monday.
A judge entered the plea for Boonmlee Lee, 21, at his arraignment in district court and set a Dec. 3 preliminary hearing, a clerk said. A second suspect in the shootings, 19-year-old Meng Lee, had already pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing and has a hearing scheduled the same day.
Both men have been charged with one count of shooting with intent to kill and five counts of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
The Lees and the five injured people are all ethnic Hmong, who hail from Asian countries including Laos, China, Vietnam and Thailand. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Hmong live in Tulsa, many arriving in recent years in search of jobs.
Prosecutors believe one victim was likely targeted at the Oct. 12 festival in Tulsa because he mediated a dispute involving the suspects’ family, which was not resolved in their favor. Police have said it is unclear what the relationship between the Lees is.
The two men were arrested shortly after the shooting after a police helicopter spotted a car driving away from the scene with its headlights off and notified officers. The suspects had thrown clothes and a semi-automatic handgun believed to have been used in the attack out of the vehicle, police said.
Prosecutors have said in a court filing that Boonmlee Lee is believed to be connected to the Menace of Destruction gang in California.
Tulsa police recovered guns, gang paraphernalia and ammunition after serving search warrants on two homes in connection with the shooting.
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