By AP and published by US News & World Report
Monterey Park, Calif. – Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations, slayings that sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities in the region and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.
The suspect was found on Sunday, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a van in which authorities say he fled after people thwarted his attempt at a second shooting on Saturday night
The massacre was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the man as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said no other suspects were at large. Luna said the motive remained unclear for the attack, which wounded 10 people, seven of whom were still hospitalised. Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, the sheriff said he didn’t have their exact ages but that all of the people killed appeared to be over 50.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said on Sunday evening that within three minutes of receiving the call, officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park. There, they found carnage inside and people trying to flee through all the doors.
“When they came into the parking lot it was chaotic,” Wiese said.
About 20 to 30 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra. But people wrested the weapon away from him and witnesses said he fled in a white van, according to Luna.
The van was found in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans, about 34.5 kilometres (22 miles) from that second location.
After surrounding the vehicle for hours, law enforcement officials swarmed and entered it. A person’s body appeared to be slumped over the wheel and was later removed. Members of a SWAT team looked through the van’s contents before walking away.
The sheriff’s department earlier released photos of an Asian man believed to be the suspect, apparently taken from a security camera.
Congresswoman Judy Chu said she still has questions about the attack but hopes residents now feel safe.
“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said, speaking at Sunday’s news conference.
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles and is composed mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans. The shooting happened in the heart of its downtown where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner that proclaimed “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”
The celebration in Monterey Park is one of California’s largest. Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials cancelled Sunday’s events following the shooting.
Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he came out for his early morning walk to learn that the noises he heard in the night were gunshots.
“I thought maybe it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with Lunar New Year,” he said. “And we don’t even get a lot of fireworks here. It’s weird to see this. It’s really safe here. We’re right in the middle of the city, but it’s really safe.”
An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the US shows that 2022 was one of the nation’s worst years with 42 such attacks — the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006. The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.
President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the situation, aides said. Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were thinking of those killed and wounded, and he directed federal authorities to support the investigation.
The Star Ballroom Dance Studio’s website said it was hosting an event Saturday called “Star Night” from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The studio is a few blocks from city hall on Monterey Park’s main thoroughfare of Garvey Avenue, which is dotted with strip malls of small businesses whose signs are in both English and Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin are both widely spoken, Chinese holidays are celebrated and Chinese films are screened regularly in the city.
Wynn Liaw, 57, who lives about two blocks from the Monterey Park studio, said she was shocked that such a crime would happen, especially during Lunar New Year’s celebrations.
“Chinese people, they consider Chinese New Year very, very special” — a time when “you don’t do anything that will bring bad luck the entire year,” she said.
Top: A body is seen on the driver’s side of a van as authorities investigate, in Torrance, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. Authorities say the driver, the suspect in a California dance club shooting that left multiple people dead, shot and killed himself. Photo: AP/Damian Dovarganes
First insert: Screenshot from a video shows emergency responders assisting a person to an ambulance following a shooting at Monterey Park, California, on Jan 22, 2023. Photo: TNLA/Handout via Reuters and published by CNA
Second insert: Police officers stand guard near the scene of a deadly shooting on Jan 22, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP and published by CNA
Third insert: Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, on Jan 22, 2023. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck and published by CNA
Front Page: Law enforcement personnel open the door of a van outside the site in Torrance, California, where the alleged suspect in the mass shooting in which 10 people were killed in Monterey Park, California, is believed to be holed up on Jan 22, 2023. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck and published by CNA
(AP journalists Andrew Dalton, Jae C. Hong and Eugene Garcia contributed. AP journalist Julie Watson contributed from San Diego.)