Monterey Park gunman kills 10 people in dance club; motive unclear

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MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (UKTN) — Authorities were searching for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a ballroom dance club in the Los Angeles area during Lunar New Year celebrations. shadow over rural festivities.

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead on Sunday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the van that authorities say he fled after being prevented from attacking another dance club. The New York Times reported that a man whose family runs the location took the gun from the attacker.

The Monterey Park massacre was the nation’s fifth mass murder this month — and it was one of the largest celebrations of a California holiday celebrated in many Asian cultures, dealing another blow to a community that has been devastated in recent years. was the target of high-profile violence.

It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

A forensic photographer takes pictures of a body in the front seat of a van before the coroner picks it up in Torrance, California, on Jan. 22, 2023.

Damian Dovarganes via UK Time News

The suspect was carrying what Luna described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second pistol was discovered in the van where Tran died.

Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said Sunday night that officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park within three minutes of receiving the call. There they found carnage inside and people tried to flee through all the doors.

“When they got to the parking lot, it was chaos,” said Wiese.

This photo, taken with a drone, shows Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 22, 2023.
This photo, taken with a drone, shows Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 22, 2023.

Jae C. Hong via UK Time News

About 20 to 30 minutes after the initial attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra. But, Luna said, two people took the gun from him.

The Times reported that after the gunman entered the club, he pointed his gun at Brandon Tsay, who works a few days a week at the location where his grandparents started. Tsay said he acted on instinct and reached for the gun after feeling the gunman was trying to hurt people. The two struggled before Tsay said he had control of the weapon.

While police said more than one person was involved, Tsay and his family said security footage showed the 26-year-old computer coder could only prevent further tragedy.

Witnesses said the suspect then fled in a white van.

After hours of surrounding the vehicle, law enforcement officers swarmed and entered it. One person’s body appeared to hang over the steering wheel and was later removed. Members of a SWAT team looked through the contents of the van before walking away.

A van is surrounded by SWAT personnel in Torrance, California, on January 22, 2023.
A van is surrounded by SWAT personnel in Torrance, California, on January 22, 2023.

Damian Dovarganes via UK Time News

The sheriff’s department previously 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 scared because they thought they shouldn’t go to events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said at Sunday’s press conference.

“What was the motive for this shooter?” she said. “Does he have a mental illness? Was he an abuser of domestic violence? How did he get these guns and was it legal or not?

Rep.  Judy Chu, D-Calif., left, addresses the media with Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, right, outside the Civic Center in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 22, 2023.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., left, addresses the media with Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna, right, outside the Civic Center in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 22, 2023.

Damian Dovarganes via UK Time News

FBI agents walk near a scene of a January 22, 2023 shooting in Monterey Park, California.
FBI agents walk near a scene of a January 22, 2023 shooting in Monterey Park, California.

Jae C. Hong via UK Time News

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.”

Two men place flowers near Star Dance Studio to honor the victims killed in a shooting in Monterey Park, California, on January 22, 2023.
Two men place flowers near Star Dance Studio to honor the victims killed in a shooting in Monterey Park, California, on January 22, 2023.

Jae C. Hong via UK Time News

An UK Time 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.

California Governor Gavin Newsom visited Monterey Park on Sunday, where he met with the victims and their families and local officials.

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 dead and injured.

The Star Ballroom Dance Studio’s website said it was hosting an event on Saturdays called “Star Night” from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. from 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 regularly screened 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 the Lunar New Year celebrations.

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

UKTN journalists Andrew Dalton, Jae C. Hong and Eugene Garcia contributed. UKTN journalist Julie Watson contributed from San Diego.

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