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What We Know So Far About the Mass Shooting That Killed 11 People in Monterey Park

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Orange flowers lie on a guard rail in the street with a vehicle and a red banner in the background.
Flowers are placed near the scene of a deadly mass shooting on Jan. 22, 2023, in Monterey Park. Eleven people were killed and nine more were injured at a dance studio in Monterey Park near a Lunar New Year celebration on Saturday night. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

This story will no longer be updated.

Update, 4:30 p.m. Monday:
The death toll from Saturday night's mass shooting at a Monterey Park ballroom dance hall rose to 11 on Monday after health officials announced that one of the 10 people initially injured in the attack had later died.

The victim was a woman in her 70s, according to officials. Her name was withheld pending notification of the next of kin. All except one of the other people killed were 60 or older, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, who on Monday afternoon began identifying victims.

Those identified so far include Mymy Nhan, 65; Lilian Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; and Valentino Alvero, 68. Two other women in their 60s, three men in their 70s and and one man his 60s also were killed in the massacre, but officials had not yet announced their names.

Nhan's family said in a statement that she was a loving person whose kindness was contagious, and that she was a regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where the shooting happened.

“It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance," the family said. "We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly.”

Investigators seeking a motive in the largest mass shooting in Los Angeles County history searched the suspected gunman's home on Monday — located in a gated community for older adults in the town of Hemet, roughly an hour away — and said they found a rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and evidence he was manufacturing gun silencers.

Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said investigators have not yet established the suspect's possible motive in the massacre during a celebration of Lunar New Year.

“What drove a madman to do this? We don’t know, but we intend to find out,” he said.

The suspect, identified as Huu Can Tran, 72, allegedly fired 42 rounds in the dance studio, ultimately killing 11 people and injuring nine others.

Tran is believed to then have driven to another nearby dance hall, where Brandon Tsay, who works at the establishment started by his grandparents, wrested a weapon away from him and saved “countless lives,” Luna said.

“He's the hero that disarmed the suspect,” Luna said. “What a brave man he is.”

Tsay took a 9 mm semi-automatic assault weapon from Tran at the Lai Lai Ballroom, Luna said.

Tran was later found dead in his van from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

He had a previous conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in 1990, but otherwise had a limited criminal history, Luna said.

Authorities have shared little about Tran, who once owned a trucking company based in Monterey Park, according to California business records.

“We do understand that he may have had a history of visiting this dance hall and perhaps the motivation has to do with some personal relationships. But that’s something that I think investigators are still uncovering and investigating,” said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo.

Tran had visited Hemet police twice this month to report that he had been the victim of fraud, theft and poisoning by family members at least a decade ago, Hemet police spokesperson Alan Reyes said. Tran had said he would return to the station with documentation but never did, Reyes added.

Update, 11 a.m. Monday: Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club following Lunar New Year celebrations on Saturday night.

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in the van that authorities say he used to flee after attempting to attack a second dance hall. The mayor of Monterey Park, where the shooting occurred, said Tran may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted.

Law enforcement officials said the rampage could have been even deadlier. A 26-year-old man whose family runs the second dance hall, in nearby Alhambra, confronted the assailant in the lobby and wrested the gun from him, The New York Times reported. The assailant then reportedly fled from the venue.

LA County Sheriff Robert Luna stressed that the motive for the attack, which also wounded 10 people, remained unclear. Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, Luna said all of the people killed appeared to be over 50. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.

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

Update, 1:30 p.m. Sunday: LA County Sheriff Robert Luna said the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park left five women and five men dead and wounded another 10 people. An armed gunman, believed to be the same person, then entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in nearby Alhambra roughly 20 minutes later, but was prevented from opening fire and quickly fled the scene.

Authorities believe the two events are connected. They offered no details about a possible motive.

The suspect in both cases was described as an Asian male. He entered the Alhambra club with a gun, and people wrestled the weapon away from him before he fled, Luna said.

By midday, police in tactical vehicles and bomb-squad trucks surrounded a white van in a parking lot. Hours earlier, Luna said authorities were looking for a white van after witnesses reported seeing the suspect flee from Alhambra in such a vehicle.

“We believe there is a person inside of that vehicle. We don’t know their condition, but we’re going to handle that in safest manner that we possibly can and try and identify that person. Could it be our suspect? Possibly," Luna said.

In response to a question, Luna said it was possible that the person barricaded in the van was dead.

Authorities said Sunday they know the suspect's name but declined to release it because it could complicate their ability to apprehend him. But they did release a photo showing an Asian man wearing glasses and a winter hat. The image was taken from the attempted shooting in Alhambra.

The sheriff declined to say what type of gun was recovered in Alhambra. He said investigators believe the gun used in Monterey Park was not an assault rifle.

The shooting and manhunt sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities in the Los Angeles area and cast a shadow over Lunar New Year festivities around the country. Other cities sent extra officers to watch over their celebrations.

The massacre was the nation's fifth mass killing this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, 2022, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

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

The celebration in Monterey Park is one of California’s largest and had attracted tens of thousands throughout the day.

Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials canceled Sunday’s events following the shooting.

Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he came out for his early morning walk to learn that the noises he heard in the night were gunshots.

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“I thought maybe it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with 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’re right in the middle of the city, but it’s 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 New Year's celebrations.

“Chinese people, they consider Chinese New Year very, very special" — a time when "you don’t do anything that will bring bad luck the entire year,” she said.

She took a picture of the activity outside the studio to send to relatives and friends in China "to let them know how crazy the U.S. is becoming with all these mass shootings, even in the New Year.”

Original story, 8 a.m. Sunday: A gunman killed 10 people and wounded 10 others at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club Saturday night at the tail end of a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect in the fifth mass killing in the U.S. this month.

Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday that the wounded were taken to hospitals with conditions ranging from stable to critical.

Meyer said people were “pouring out of the location screaming” when officers arrived at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. He said officers then went into the ballroom and found victims as firefighters treated the wounded.

Meyer gave no description of the male suspect or the weapon he used, or why police gave no information on the shooting for hours while the shooter apparently remained on the run. He also said police were investigating another incident in the nearby city of Alhambra, where a similar business, the Lai Lai Ballroom, had police tape across its front door and an officer guarding it. Detectives could be seen working near the open back door, where a woman wearing gloves was carefully examining the door handle as though checking for fingerprints. Officials gave no details on what had happened and it was unclear whether this was the incident investigators were examining to see whether there was a connection to the Monterey Park shooting.

Meyer said it’s too early in the investigation to know whether the gunman knew anyone at the ballroom or whether it was a hate crime.

“We will look at every angle,” Meyer said.

The shooting happened in the heart of downtown Monterey Park where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner that proclaimed, “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”

The Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park is one of California’s largest and had attracted tens of thousands throughout the day. Most of the residents of Monterey Park, a city of about 60,000 people that sits at the eastern edge of Los Angeles, are Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans.

Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials canceled Sunday’s events following the shooting.

The tragedy marked not just the fifth mass killing in the U.S. since the start of the year but also is the deadliest since May 24, 2022, when 21 people were killed in a school in Uvalde, Texas, according to an Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S.

The database also shows that 2022 was also one of the worst years ever in terms of mass killings, with 42 such attacks — the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006. The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.

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

The White House said that President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation by Homeland Security Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall: “The President has been briefed by the Homeland Security Advisor on the mass shooting in Monterey Park. He directed her to make sure that the FBI is providing full support to local authorities, and to update him regularly today as more details are known.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland was also briefed, Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson said.

The shooting occurred at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a few blocks from city hall on Monterey Park’s main thoroughfare of Garvey Avenue, which is dotted with strip malls full of small businesses whose signs are in both English and Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin both are widely spoken, Chinese holidays are celebrated, and Chinese films are screened regularly in the city.

The business offers dance lessons from the tango to the rumba to the foxtrot, and rents its space for events. On Saturday, its website said it was hosting an event called “Star Night” from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m..

Seung Won Choi, who owns the Clam House seafood barbecue restaurant across the street from where the shooting happened, told The Los Angeles Times that three people rushed into his business and told him to lock the door.

The people said to Choi that there was a shooter with a gun who had multiple rounds of ammunition on him.

Wong Wei, who lives nearby, told The Los Angeles Times that his friend was in a bathroom at the dance club that night when the shooting started. When she came out, he said, she saw a gunman and three bodies.

The friend then fled to Wei’s home at around 11 p.m., he said, adding that his friends told him that the shooter appeared to fire indiscriminately with a long gun.

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