Monterey Park Dance-Hall Shooter Took His Own Life as Police Closed In, Officials Say

Suspected gunman, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, killed 10 and injured 10 others near Los Angeles

Law-enforcement vehicles surrounded the van in a shopping-plaza parking lot.Photo: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

MONTEREY PARK, Calif.—The man police said killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in a mass shooting east of Los Angeles late Saturday fatally shot himself Sunday following an hourslong manhunt, according to the Los Angeles County sheriff.

Sheriff Robert Luna identified the man as Huu Can Tran, 72 years old. Tran took his own life in a van in Torrance, Calif., about 30 miles from Monterey Park on Sunday morning after law-enforcement vehicles surrounded the van within a shopping-plaza parking lot.

Authorities Sunday said they were still searching for a motive.

“The suspect responsible for this tragedy is no longer a threat,” said Sheriff Luna.

He said the dead included five females and five males. He didn’t give specific information about the victims’ ages. “They’re not in their 20s or 30s,” the sheriff said. “They seem to be, probably I would say in their 50s, 60s and maybe some even beyond there.”

Tran’s death occurred about 12 hours after the shooting at a ballroom dance hall that had advertised a Lunar New Year’s Eve party, authorities said. Monterey Park is a city of about 61,000 people with a large Asian-American population. The shooting happened shortly after the city had finished its large Lunar New Year celebration.

Sheriff Luna said the white van resembled one that witnesses described seeing at a second incident Saturday night in the nearby city of Alhambra in which a gunman was disarmed by partygoers.

Officers in Torrance on Sunday morning pulled over a van matching a description of that vehicle, and the driver proceeded to fire a single gunshot as they approached, taking his own life, Sheriff Luna said. He said police found evidence inside the vehicle tying him to both locations, as well as a firearm.

Police haven’t released the names of the dance halls, only the blocks where the incidents took place. But community members said the mass shooting occurred at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, while the second incident where a gunman was disarmed by partygoers happened about 20 minutes later at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra.

Lila Lee said she had planned to attend Lunar New Year celebrations at the Star ballroom on Saturday night. Ms. Lee, who is in her mid-50s, said she often went dancing there. But on this Saturday night, her friend and partner Kingston Lee asked her to stay home and celebrate.

“I got lucky,” Ms. Lee said. “What a way to think of a new year.”

Charlene Lung, who was at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio on Sunday morning for a regularly scheduled dance lesson, said she spent Saturday night at a dinner with family members, celebrating Lunar New Year’s Eve, and didn’t attend that evening’s event at the studio, a New Year’s Eve party.

Ms. Lung, an 82-year-old retired teacher, said the first she heard of the shooting in nearby Monterey Park was from a group of reporters gathered outside the studio Sunday morning.

“If we had known, we wouldn’t have come,” Ms. Lung said of her morning lesson.

The shooting in Monterey Park is the deadliest mass shooting in California in several years. In 2018, a gunman killed 12 people at a country-music bar in Thousand Oaks before taking his own life. In late 2015, two shooters stormed a holiday gathering for county employees in San Bernardino, killing 14 people.

Sheriff Luna said police recovered what he described as a magazine-fed, semiautomatic assault pistol at the Alhambra scene. He said an extended, large-capacity magazine was attached to it.

Monterey Park police encountered a chaotic scene soon after the dance hall shooting, Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said.

“There were injured people inside, there were dead people inside,” he said. “And my young officers did their job, searched for a suspect, and then came back and had to deal with the carnage that was inside. And it was extensive. That’s one of the reasons I need to make sure that they’re OK.”

About 20 minutes after the shooting, an armed man entered a dance hall a couple of miles away in Alhambra, authorities said. Several people wrestled the firearm away from him and he fled, Sheriff Luna said. On Sunday, a handwritten sign on the door at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio said the venue was “CLOSED, in observance to STARDANCE TRAGEDY.”

Thomas Wong, a Monterey Park city council member, said the shooting left residents shaken. Mr. Wong, who is 35 years old and grew up in the city, said Monterey Park has a large and varied Asian-American community that goes back decades.

A man pays his respects at a gathering to honor the people killed in the Monterey Park shooting.Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

“There’s Hong Kongers, a lot more mainland Chinese folks over the last 10 or 20 years or so, still a strong Taiwanese-American community, a lot of other cultures, including Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Chinese, all celebrating Lunar New Year,” he said.

Mr. Wong said the community is a magnet for many people because it is close to Los Angeles but has long been considered a safe community. “We attract a lot of people who want a quieter kind of neighborhood and a smaller community but want the proximity to Los Angeles,” he said. “A tragedy like this—we’re not used to this kind of stuff.”

Past Lunar New Year festivals have attracted more than 100,000 visitors a day, according to the city’s website. Mr. Wong attended the festival Saturday and said this was the first Lunar New Year festival in Monterey Park since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The city of Monterey Park is in Los Angeles County, about 7 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. About 65% of Monterey Park’s residents are of Asian descent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while 27% are Latino or Hispanic. The city has been recognized as developing one of the first suburban Chinatowns in the U.S.

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