LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) — A Lebanon man and a 16-year-old boy have been charged with criminal homicide after two young children and a 19-year-old man were fatally shot on Tuesday night.
According to court records, Alex Torres-Santos, 22, and 16-year-old James Fernandez-Reyes have been charged with criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and carrying a firearm without a license. Torres-Santos was also charged with possessing cocaine.
Officials in Lebanon announced Thursday that an unknown third man is wanted for his alleged role in the homicides.
Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said the two in custody are being held at the Lebanon County Corrections Facility without bail. She added her office is currently deciding whether to seek the death penalty in this case.
“That decision is not a quick decision, it is not one we take lightly, but again, as the police chief and the mayor have stated, these are all of our children, this is our community and we need to take this seriously,” she said.
According to police, officers were called to the 400 block of N. 5th Street on Tuesday, May 30 and found multiple gunshot victims on the rear porch. A witness reported seeing the shooter and a white vehicle leaving the scene.
One of the victims died at the scene, and two were taken to the hospital where they later died from their injuries. A 33-year-old neighbor was injured and is currently recovering in the hospital after being struck by a stray bullet.
The police department, in conjunction with the Lebanon County Coroner’s Office and District Attorney’s office, identified the victims as 8-year-old Jesus Perez-Salome, 9-year-old Sebastian Perez-Salome, and 19-year-old Joshua Lugo-Perez. Lugo-Perez was not related to the eight and nine-year-old victims but lived in the same home.
Police also said Thursday they believe Lugo-Perez was the target in the shooting. Lebanon Police Chief Bret Fisher said this was the result of a past argument.
The Lebanon County District Attorney’s Office says that 27 shell casings were found that were fired from two different caliber firearms. Police located several .223 rifle and 9mm handgun rounds at the western edge of a local playground on the 400 block of Garrett Street.
“These shootings are unacceptable. As a mom, I cannot overstate how heartbroken I am for the families,” Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello said Wednesday.
DA Graf says Torres-Santos was on house arrest for several separate firearm and drug charges and was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the shooting, citing GPS records from the device. Police also observed video in the area showing a white vehicle and three people fleeing from it.
On Wednesday, May 31, a Lebanon County SWAT team served a search warrant on Torres-Santos’ apartment. Torres-Santos and Fernandez-Reyes ran from the apartment; shortly after, police arrested Torres-Santos.
When police searched the residence, police found an AR-15 rifle police say is consistent with the shell casings found at the scene of the homicides, according to a release from the DA’s office. Police also found a rifle with a duffle bag with magazines filled with .223 ammunition and a small Nike bag containing drug paraphernalia, a scale, and a wallet with ID belonging to Torres-Santos
According to court records, Fernandez-Reyes was found hiding in an apartment on the 400 block of N. 9th Street.
The DA’s office alleges that Torres-Santos and Fernandez-Reyes committed the homicides together and that Torres-Santos provided the two firearms used in the shootings before they left the scene with the weapons.
The DA’s office also claims that Torres-Santos’ criminal record shows that he is currently out on bail for two separate incidents that both involve “dangerous behavior with firearms” as well as possession of crack cocaine with intent to deliver.
The DA’s office says Torres-Santos’ bail for his previous charges was originally set at $100,000 but was later lowered by a judge to $50,000. Court records also allege Torres-Santos was a suspect in a January 17 shooting and a February 7 shooting involving the same victim that also involved a juvenile who allegedly accompanied Torres-Santos.
Neighbors said the incident came as a shock.
“This neighborhood used to be really calm, doors open all the time, everybody knew everybody,” said John Dullebawm, who has lived near the area of the shooting for over 40 years.
Dullebawm said he has seen more violent crime in recent years, but the Tuesday night shooting came as a shock. He heard the shots.
“By the time I even got up to go into the kitchen to look out the back door, it just took off like crazy,” he said.
Dullebawm said officers were on scene all night, and police said Wednesday they were still following several leads.
“We have dedicated law enforcement personnel who take these incidents personally,” Mayor Capello said.
Dullebawm said he is glad to see police taking this seriously, and while he is not scared, he said is certainly going to be more careful.
“I’m going to be locking my door now at night all the time,” he said.
Mayor Capello said the two boys killed were students in the Lebanon School District. Dr. Arthur Abrom, the superintendent of the Lebanon School District sent a letter to families on Wednesday that said:
I regret to inform you that on May 30, 2023 a tragic event occurred involving the death of two of our students. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the student’s families during this sad occasion.
A young person’s death is always a heartbreaking and troubling event and the loss of a young life can have a profound effect on the student’s friends and classmates. It is important that we, as family members and educators, recognize this loss and offer assistance.
Our district staff has put a plan into place to help students deal with their grief and to support students as we progress through the rest of this year. Our Student Assistance Team, trained to respond in the event of a crisis, is available to handle the situation. School counselors are available to talk with students about response to grief. We also have School Counselors on site to give students the opportunity to be seen individually or in a small group setting.
We encourage you to be especially emphathetic and prepared to offer support to your child during this time. It is important for you to talk with your children about their feelings and reactions in an age appropriate manner. Over the next few days, encourage your child to express his/her feelings and listen attentively. You may see behavior changes, loss of concentration, physical complaints, or regression. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s reaction to this loss, contact your child’s teacher, the school counselor, school nurse, Principal, or your family physician.
Thank you for your concern and support during this difficult time.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey also expressed his condolences, saying he is “praying for the families of the teenager and two children killed in Lebanon and for the swift recovery of the survivor.”
“My team has been in touch with local officials, and I am grateful for their swift response. Time and time again, I hear about unthinkable incidents of gun violence and am reminded that we must do more to stop this violence. We need more commonsense gun safety laws to protect our communities and prevent the next tragedy.”
The Lebanon City Police Department, the Lebanon County District Attorney’s Office and Detective Bureau, the Pennsylvania State Police, and other Lebanon County Police Departments assisted in the investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to call Lebanon Police.