One by one, residents of the Torrey Pines Condominiums walked toward a patch of grass at the front of the complex Saturday morning.
Rocked by a murder-suicide that ended the lives of an entire family, the residents came to express their grief and talk with their neighbors, police and church representatives through a community outreach event organized by the Metropolitan Police Department in partnership with Liberty Baptist Church.
Phoukeo Dej-Oudom was shot by her husband, Jason Dej-Oudom, at the Walgreens at the intersection of Lake Mead and Jones boulevards before he returned to the family’s apartment in the complex at 1900 N. Torrey Pines Drive. He then shot their three children — Anhurak, 9, Xonajuk, 14, and Dalavanh, 15 — and turned the gun on himself, police said.
“The incident was horrible, and everybody’s hurting,” Metro Lt. Nicholas Farese said. “Police who worked this case are hurting, their family’s hurting and the community is hurting.”
Saturday’s event, attended by nearly 40 people, aimed to bring the community together and start the healing process, Farese said.
“Our goal is to bring peace,” he said. “We want to also deliver a message that this could have been prevented. Though we’ll never know if there was a way we could have prevented this, a murder-suicide is never the answer.”
Farese said it’s important for people to pay attention to indicators of violence, including physical signs.
“It’s important to err on the side of caution and call us,” he said. “It’s always better to call us when there is smoke, but no fire, rather than when something happens.”
Resident Becky Perkowski said she’s lived in the building next to where the Dej-Oudom family was killed for the past 15 years.
“I didn’t know anything about it until I heard it on the news,” she said. “It was terrifying.”
Perkowski said Wednesday’s murder-suicide was the first crime she can recall happening in the community aside from a break-in she experienced at her apartment a few months ago.
“We need to look after our neighbors more, and I hope they hold more events like this so we can,” she said.
Torrey Pines Condominiums Homeowners’s Association President Lew Schonberg also said he hopes the community starts coming together more often.
“This is a small community where people don’t mingle that much,” he said. “This has brought people out and the police and church have taken steps to make a positive out of a negative.”
Liberty Baptist Church Executive Pastor Matt Teis brought prayer counselors and other members from his 1,000-member parish on West Lake Mead Boulevard on Saturday morning.
“We came out because this is our neighborhood and we want to make sure we’re showing the love of God,” he said. “The police have been proactive in engaging the community, and we want to help them.”
Teis said seeing community members at the complex coming together on Saturday morning was a positive sign.
“It’s good for them to get out and be a community,” he said. “While this community is transient, this is a neighborhood full of love, and it’s a great place to raise kids.”
Farese said Metro’s work won’t end after Saturday’s community outreach event.
“Being engaged with the community has never been more important than it is now,” he said. “Every community deserves to be safe, and that’s what we’re all about.”
Contact reporter Ann Friedman at email@example.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @AnnFriedmanRJ on Twitter.