RALEIGH, N.C. >> Police say a machete was used in the deadly attack on three young brothers from a refugee community in North Carolina.
New Bern Police Lt. Ronda Allen confirmed Thursday that a machete was used in the attack, which also left the boys’ mother and sister with injuries. Authorities have also described the weapon as a knife.
Allen says the father of the children was away from the house at work when the neighbor attacked the family Tuesday night. The mother and a 14-year-old daughter have been treated and released.
The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Eh Lar Doh Htoo, attacked the family in their home Tuesday night with a knife, killing the brothers — ages 1, 5 and 12, police said. When officers arrived, he was still holding the knife, New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers Jr. told The Associated Press.
Htoo also wounded the brothers’ mother and their 14-year-old sister. Police said they don’t know a motive for the attack and a language barrier hampered their investigation.
"We were scared," said A Bu, who took in the mother and a surviving daughter while they waited for police to arrive.
The sounds of screaming and dogs barking, followed by police sirens, awakened several neighbors who live in what they describe as a normally quiet neighborhood. The diverse neighborhood includes several families of Burmese refugees.
Htoo was charged with three counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Police said they don’t know whether he has an attorney.
New Bern is a coastal town and home to about 1,900 Burmese refugees, who resettled in the area after fleeing persecution from the country once called Burma, now known as Myanmar.
"Anytime this happens in any community, any part of town, it’s surprising," the police chief said.
The stabbings happened on a street of about 10 homes that face a railroad track and several dilapidated commercial buildings.
About 11 p.m. Tuesday, officers were called there to a report of a person with a knife. They entered the home and found two dead boys. A third died at a hospital.
Police did not release the victims’ names.
Another neighbor said the suspect had scared his family by knocking on their door several times in the middle of the night.
"He’s crazy," neighbor Ner Wah said Wednesday. "I told my wife: ‘Be careful. Don’t answer the door.’"
Wah said that like him, Htoo was a member of the Karen ethnic group, an oppressed people whose language has been banned back home.
Htoo once came to Wah’s house during the day to ask him to help translate documents, but Wah said they weren’t friends.
"We felt very scared of him," Wah said.
A neighbor who lives about five houses away said he heard sirens late Tuesday night and decided to stay inside.
"We were scared. We just locked the door," said 23-year-old Yyoch Rmah, who moved to the U.S. from Vietnam in 2006.
Htoo’s first court appearance was scheduled for Friday.
Associated Press writers Martha Waggoner and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh contributed to this report.