Mass shooting suspect found

Police have identified a 72-year-old man as the suspected gunman who killed 10 people and wounded 10 more at a dance club on Saturday.

After a stand-off with law enforcement, Huu Can Tran allegedly shot himself inside a cargo van, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said during a press conference outside Monterey Park City Hall on Monday.

Sheriff’s officials said Tran, who is accused of shooting up a Monterey Park ballroom after the Lunar New Year celebration, acted alone.

A white van matching the suspect vehicle description was spotted by police in Torrance, Calif. at 10:20 a.m. Police followed the van into a shopping mall parking lot, where they heard a single gunshot. 

As a result, the local police officers retreated and called in tactical teams for assistance.

In a standoff lasting more than an hour, armored tanks and a bomb squad descended upon the van just before noon local time. 

A few minutes before 1 p.m. local time, a SWAT team opened the passenger door and then the side doors of the vehicle. In photos, a man was slumped over in the driver’s seat, who Luna said investigators confirmed was the suspect in the shooting. 

An earlier wanted poster released by Luna’s department depicted the suspect wearing glasses, a dark winter beanie, a leather jacket and glasses. Furthermore, he did not rule out the possibility of a second suspect, but provided no evidence that such a suspect might exist.

Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, stated to reporters, “I was told the wife was invited to the Lunar New Year Party and the husband was not.”

Luna said the department intentionally shields some information from the public, in part because someone called a hospital with some of the injured victims and threatened to “finish the job.”

Officials found a handgun and evidence linking Tran to the Lunar New Year massacre inside the van, according to the sheriff. During the investigation, investigators recovered an assault pistol with an extended large capacity magazine from another location, where no shots were fired.

There were five men and five women killed during the rampage at the ballroom dance club, which is about eight miles from downtown Los Angeles. Officials reported that ten others were wounded and seven of them were still being treated at local hospitals as of Sunday evening; their conditions ranged from stable to critical.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference that it is assumed that the victims were of Asian descent. Luna did not immediately know the age of the victims, but they were believed to be in their 50s and beyond.

“There is a male suspect that fled the scene, has been described as a male Asian,” Luna stated.

Sheriff Robert Luna of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported that the suspect “has been described as a male Asian.”

“It’s taken us a while and please be patient with us because as we are interviewing witnesses and victims we’ve gotten different descriptions of one suspect.”

Police said Tran was the same man who walked into a “rival” dancehall in nearby Alhambra with a firearm about 20 minutes after the mass murder.

Two people disarmed the suspect at the Lai Lai Ballroom, according to police, and no shots were fired at that location, which is approximately three miles away from Star Dance Studio.

Luna said that the suspected shooter in Alhambra was armed with a magazine-fed semiautomatic assault pistol and fled the scene in a white cargo van.

“He was disarmed by two community members who I consider to be heroes because they save lives,” Luna explained. “This could have been much worse.”

The mass murder was the deadliest in the US since the massacre at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school that killed 21 people last May, and was the fifth such horrifying incident in the country thus far in 2023.

Police first received a 911 call at 10:22 p.m., a little more than an hour after a Lunar New Year festival that attracted up to 100,000 people had wrapped up a short distance away from the dancehall.

“We were just wrapping up the final shutdown of the Lunar New Year event,” said Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.

“I had dozens of officers here throughout the day and the evening at the Lunar New Year event, so our response to the scene was within minutes,” he explained.

As officers arrived at the scene, dozens of people were streaming out of the dance club, some of whom were injured, Wiese said.

“My officers put together a react team and went inside to see if the suspect was still inside,” he explained.

“They were probably entering that business within a minute or two of responding, and that’s how we’ve been trained, and that’s how we respond,” explained Wiese, contrasting the 77 minutes it took officers to respond to the Uvalde school shooting.

The second day of the annual celebration had been canceled as police interviewed dozens of witnesses and examined video footage as they searched for the killer.

As the mass murderer remained at large, officials did not order a shelter-in-place order for San Gabriel Valley, which has a population of approximately 60,000, and emphasized that it is “safe right now.”

“Our thoughts prayers and condolences go out right now, not only to the victims, their families, uh but this Monterey Park community,” stated Luna.

“We’re using every resource to apprehend this suspect in what we believe to be one of the county’s most heinous cases,” he said, adding that state and federal authorities were also assisting in the investigation.

In his remarks, Wiese cautioned that the investigation would be a “large investigation that will go on for many days and perhaps many months,” and Rep. Judy Chu said President Biden had been “appraised” of the “horrific shooting.”

“This could have been so much worse, only hours earlier there were thousands there,” stated the Democrat.

“What I know about the people here is that we will get through this together,” she said, referring to the “resilient” community.

Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles, added: “Families deserve to celebrate the holidays in peace — mass shootings and gun violence are a plague on our communities.

“As investigations determine whether these murders were motivated by Asian hate, we continue to stand united against all attempts to divide us,” stated Bass. “My heart goes out to Monterey Park and the families and friends of those lost.”

It has been announced that Lai Lai Ballroom will remain closed on Sunday while investigators examine the crime scene at Star Dance Studio.

“In observance of the tragedy at Star Dance last night, Lai Lai Ballroom will be closed today. Tea and night dances are suspended until further notice,” according to the statement.

“Lai Lai will reopen Monday for lessons only. As an extra precaution, All students and teachers are subject to search prior to entering the studio. Our prayers go out to all the victims families.”

There was no immediate indication as to what type of event Star Dance Studio had been hosting as revelers-turned-victims brought in the Year of the Rabbit.

Former assistant Monica Orca said that Saturdays are usually reserved for Chinese social dancing, during which members of the community can practice the ballroom moves they have learned from professional instructors.

“Usually on Saturdays around that time, it’s reserved for social dancing attended mostly by people of Chinese descent, mostly they are 50 years and over,” she told reporters on Sunday. “This is where people come to study from professional dancers. Even in the ballroom community, I’ve never seen any violence at all. Not even one fight. Nothing. This is really weird and shocking. We go to ballroom for stress relief. But if these shootings could happen in schools and now ballroom, it can happen anywhere.”

She said she spoke with the owner of Star Dance Studio, who was shaken by the incident.

“I Imagine this is something that’s shocking for her,” she told The Post, adding that the owner was not injured in the incident.

Despite its location in a predominantly Asian community, the Star Ballroom hosts various showcases and has a diverse clientele, Orca said. She described it as “a special place.”

Another ballroom instructor who rents the Star Dance space for specific nights said the Chinese social club has been held on Saturdays for more than a decade, but Saturday night was probably a special occasion because of the holiday.

“That event has been going on for more than 10 years and it’s one of the more popular places on a Saturday night in that area,” the anonymous man explained.

“But there is a rival studio, the Lai Lai Studio, which is like four or five miles away. So the students who go to Star Dance sometimes go to Lai Lai Studio, which is popular on Sundays. Depending on the expertise of the teacher that night, the customers sometimes go back and forth between the two places.

“These two studios have been there for decades and they always compared and competed with each other,” said the instructor.
In addition, he stated: “I have students from Singapore who have been texting me and asking if we are OK.”

“It’s really shocking because ballroom, it’s a small community,” commented the instructor. “Ballroom is about exercising and having fun. Most of the people who go there are seniors. I’ve been to a lot of countries teaching ballroom but never had something like this happen.”