Sheriff: Suspect in dance club shooting committed suicide in van

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MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (TBEN) — The hunt for a gunman who killed 10 people at a ballroom dance club in the Los Angeles area ended Sunday when authorities found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the van he used to flee after people foiled his attempted second shooting.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the man as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said no other suspects were on the loose. He added that the motive remained unclear for the attack, which left another 10 injured.

The weapon believed to be used was identified as a magazine-fed semi-automatic assault pistol, which was also found in the van.

“I still have questions in my head, namely, what was the motive for this shooter? Did he have a mental illness? Was he an abuser of domestic violence? How did he get these guns and was it legal or not?” That’s what Congresswoman Judy Chu said.

Earlier on Sunday, law enforcement officers swarmed into the van after surrounding it for hours before entering. One person’s body appeared to be hanging over the steering wheel and was later removed from the vehicle.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna previously released photos of an Asian man believed to be the suspect.

The manhunt came after the gunman killed 10 people at a ballroom dance studio late Saturday during Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park’s predominantly Asian-American community. He probably tried to attack a second dance hall, but was unsuccessful, authorities said.

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The van was found in Torrance, another community where many Asian Americans live, about 21 miles from that second location.

The shooting sent a wave of fear through Asian-American communities in the Los Angeles area and cast a shadow over New Year’s celebrations across the country. Other cities sent additional agents to monitor the celebrations.

“The community was scared because they thought they shouldn’t go to events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said. She added that she wants residents to feel safe now. “Feel safe,” she told residents at a press conference late Sunday. “You are no longer in danger.”

Luna said the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park killed five women and five men and injured another 10 people. 20 to 30 minutes later, a man armed with a gun entered the Lai Lai Ballroom at nearby Alhambra.

The suspect entered the Alhambra club with a gun and people wrested the weapon from him before he fled, Luna said.

Hours earlier, Luna said authorities were looking for a white van after witnesses reported seeing the suspect flee Alhambra in such a vehicle.

Members of a SWAT team entered the van a short time later and examined the contents before walking away. It was not clear what they found.

The massacre was the fifth mass murder in the country this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

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Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles, made up mostly of first-generation Asian immigrants from China or Asian Americans. The shooting took place in the heart of downtown, where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner reading “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”

The celebration in Monterey Park is one of the largest in California. Two days of celebration were planned, attended by as many as 100,000 people in recent years. But officials canceled Sunday’s events after the shooting.

Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he learned before his early morning walk that the noises he heard at night were gunshots.

“I thought it might be fireworks. I thought it might have something to do with the 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 are in the middle of the city, but it is really safe.”

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 the New Year celebrations.

“Chinese people consider Chinese New Year to be very, very special” — a time when “you don’t do anything that brings bad luck all year,” she said.

She took a photo of the activity outside the studio to send to relatives and friends in China “to let them know how crazy the US is getting with all these mass shootings, even into the new year.”

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An The Bharat Express News/USA Today database on mass killings in the US shows that 2022 was one of the country’s worst years with 42 such attacks – the second highest number since the tracker’s creation in 2006. The database defines a mass murder if four dead, not counting the perpetrator.

The latest violence comes two months after five people were killed at a Colorado Springs nightclub.

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 about the deaths and injuries, and he directed federal authorities to support the investigation.

The shooting took place at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a few blocks from City Hall on Garvey Avenue, Monterey Park’s main thoroughfare, which is lined with small business malls whose signs are in both English and Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin are both widely spoken, Chinese holidays are celebrated, and Chinese films are regularly screened in the city.

The company offered dance classes from tango to rumba to foxtrot and rented space for events. On Saturday, the website said, it hosted an event called “Star Night” from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

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The Bharat Express News writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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