Vietnamese man, 72, identified as California CNY shooter (updated)

LOS ANGELES, 23 Jan 2023:

The suspect in a mass shooting that killed 10 people and injured 10 others at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, California, has been found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed.

“Today, the sheriff’s homicide investigators working alongside all of our law enforcement partners were able to confirm the identity of the male inside the white cargo van as the suspect in the mass shooting that we had in Monterey Park,” Los Angeles county sheriff Robert Luna told a press conference.

Police located the suspect’s vehicle, closed in on it and followed it into a shopping centre parking lot.

“When officers exited the patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” Luna said, adding that the driver sustained a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Investigators conducted a search of the vehicle and determined the man inside the van was the mass shooting suspect. During the search, several pieces of evidence were found inside the van linking the suspect to both locations (…) In addition a handgun was discovered in the van.”

The sheriff identified the suspect as 72-year-old Asian man Huu Can Tran, believed to be of Vietnamese origin, and police are not seeking any other suspects.

Officials were in the process of identifying the victims, who appear to be in their 50s, 60s and maybe older, Luna said.

Gunfire erupted at 10.22pm Saturday night at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, some 13km east of Los Angeles, after nearby lunar new year celebrations.

Luna said when authorities arrived at the scene they found 10 people already dead. Another 10 were transported to different area hospitals, some of them in critical condition. Reportedly, five of the dead were men and five were women.

“When officers arrived on the (Monterey Park) scene they observed numerous individuals, patrons … pouring out of the location screaming. The officers made entry to the location, and located additional victims,” Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department captain Andrew Meyer told reporters.

“The Monterey Park fire department responded to the scene and treated the injured, and pronounced 10 of the victims deceased at the scene,” he said, adding that “there are at least 10 additional victims that were transported to numerous local hospitals that are listed in various conditions from stable to critical.”

Police believe that the shooting is linked to an incident occurring 20 minutes later in the nearby suburb of Alhambra, also at a dance hall and in which people there managed to disarm the attacker, who fled without opening fire.

President Joe Biden called for the FBI to provide its “full support” to local authorities in Monterey Park and ordered flags to be flown at half mast in respect for the victims of the “senseless attack.”

California governor Gavin Newsom said via Twitter that “Monterey Park should have had a night of joyful celebration of the Lunar New Year. Instead, they were the victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence. Our hearts mourn as we learn more about the devastating acts of last night. We are monitoring the situation closely.”

Monterey Park is home to just over 60,000 people, about 65.5% of whom are of Asian descent. The shooting took place shortly after hundreds of people had attended a Lunar New Year celebration, a traditional Chinese festival, in the area that reportedly ended at around 9pm.

Police said the celebration, which was due to continue on Sunday, had been cancelled “out of an abundance of caution and reverence for the victims.”

Authorities are trying to determine what motivated that Asian man to open fire during a ballroom dancing class at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio.

At the time of the shooting, thousands of people had gathered just metres from the establishment for a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park.

The attacker, whose used a stolen semi-automatic assault pistol in the attack, entered another dance studio – the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio – in the nearby town of Alhambra 20 minutes later.

But the suspect was disarmed there by the operator of that family-run dance hall – a man named Brandon Tsay who told authorities he had never seen a real gun before – and ended up fleeing the scene.

A manhunt was subsequently launched after local law enforcement agencies received word that the potential suspect had left the Alhambra studio in a white van.

That vehicle was later located by police in the city of Torrance, south of Los Angeles, and followed to a shopping centre parking lot, where the alleged gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound following an hours-long standoff with SWAT officers.

The shooting in Monterey Park occurred in the same week that another gunshot attack at a home in central California left six dead, including a 17-year-old mother and her 6-month-old baby.