Monterey Park, police search for motive after mass shooting – NBC News

The gunman behind the deadly dance hall shooting in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park that left 10 people dead and at least 10 more wounded may have been targeting his ex-wife on the Lunar New Year, the California city’s mayor said Monday.

Huu Can Tran, the 72-year-old suspected shooter, burst into the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Saturday and opened fire on a festive crowd before fleeing, police said.

“My understanding is that he may have come because his ex-wife was reveling, celebrating the Lunar New Year, and it sounded like there was a history of domestic violence, which is unfortunate,” Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo told NBC News’ Kate Snow.

Tran filed for divorce in 2005 in Los Angeles County, records show. NBC News has reached out to the person believed to be the shooter’s ex-wife for comment.

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Police on Monday were searching the suspect’s home in Hemet, a small city about 85 miles east of Los Angeles, and have not divulged a motive.

Alan Reyes, public information officer for the Hemet Police Department, said their records show that Tran contacted them a decade ago and alleged his family was trying to poison him. The allegation was never investigated because Tran never presented any proof to back up his claims, Reyes said.

Tran died some 12 hours after the massacre of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white van as a SWAT team closed in on him, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Sunday.

“The unimaginable happened in our community last evening,” Lo said in a statement Sunday, calling the deadly shooting a “horrible tragedy.”

“We understand our community is looking for answers,” he said, promising to update residents on the investigation.

California police hunting the gunman who killed 10 people at a dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations broke into a van after a lengthy standoff Sunday, where images showed a body slumped in the driver's seat. The hunt began 12 hours earlier after a man -- described by police as Asian -- began firing at a club in Monterey Park, a city in Los Angeles County with a large Asian community.
Officers peer into the window of a van believed to have a body in the driver’s seat in Torrance, Calif., on Sunday. Robyn Beck / AFP – Getty Images

Meanwhile, as the mostly-Asian community braced for a wave of funerals, the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office released the names of two of the victims: My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63. It was not immediately clear if they knew the gunman.

At 72, Tran did not fit the age profile of a mass shooter. The median age over the past six decades is 32, according to data compiled by The Violence Project, which is a nonprofit research center funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Some 30 minutes after Tran opened fire in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, he turned up at another dance studio in the nearby town of Alhambra, police said. There, Tran was stripped of what police described as a “semi-automatic assault pistol,” before he could harm anybody, by a member of the family that operates the venue.

“When he was looking around the room, it seemed like he was looking for targets, people to harm,” Brandon Tsay, 26, said of the shooter in an interview Monday with ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Tran was able to get away, police said. And about a dozen hours after the bloodshed in Monterey Park, police tracked Tran’s white van to a car park 30 miles away in the suburb of Torrance where the suspect killed himself.

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Several pieces of evidence linking Tran to the carnage were found inside the van, Luna said. A handgun was also found in the van, he added.

Jan. 23, 202300:47

Early on, police raised the possibility that the massacre may have been a hate crime.

“We don’t know if this is specifically a hate crime defined by law, but who walks into a dance hall and guns down 20 people?” Luna said earlier Sunday “The description we have now is of a male Asian. Does that matter? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything’s on the table

Image: Ten Killed In Mass Shooting At Lunar New Year Festival In California
Investigators near the scene of the shooting in Monterey Park.Eric Thayer / Getty Images

A resource center was established at Monterey Park’s Langley Senior Center, he said, adding that mental health resources were available for “anyone who needs support.”

Families and friends gathered at the center through much of Sunday, waiting to hear news of loved ones who they feared might have been among the people killed or injured.

“I tried to reach her, but I didn’t get any response,” Monterey Park resident Vivian King said of a friend she last heard from earlier in the weekend.

“It’s difficult not knowing what’s going on,” said Juan Pablo Pinzon, a tourist from Colombia, who said his cousin had been out with friends in the area Saturday night and had not responded to texts and calls. “Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon.”

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