- Taken during Chinese New Year
- Ballroom dancing venue popular with older customers
- The shooter later killed himself as police approached
MONTEREY PARK, Calif., Jan 22 (Reuters) – A 72-year-old gunman killed 10 people in a Lunar New Year massacre at a dance club about 12 hours after police approached him on Sunday. Ten others were later injured.
The gunman tried to open fire again at another club minutes after the initial shooting on Saturday night, but authorities said two bystanders wrestled the gunman from his hands before firing the gun. He ran away from that scene.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the suspect as Huu Can Tran, a man in his septuagenarian who he said shot the Monterey Park park with a high-capacity pistol A popular ballroom dancing venue with an older clientele about 7 miles (11 km) east of downtown Los Angeles.
Although gun violence is common in the United States, investigators don’t know the motive. Luna did not identify any of the victims, but said the five men and five women appeared to be in their 50s, 60s or older. The sheriff said the handgun Tran used appeared to be illegal in California, where state law prohibits any magazine holding more than 10 rounds.
“We want to know, we want to know how this horrible thing happened,” Luna told reporters.
Police say Tran was shot in Monterey Park at around 10 p.m. PST Saturday (0600 GMT Sunday), Luna said, about 20 minutes after he danced at his second home in the neighboring city of Alhambra. The club confronted bystanders.
“I can tell you that the suspect walked in there, probably to kill more people, and two brave community members decided to take immediate action to disarm him,” Luna said.
Tran pointed the pistol at himself Sunday as police approached a white van he was driving in Torrance, about 20 miles (34 kilometers) from the scene of the shooting at the Star Ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, the sheriff said. Officers heard a gunshot from the van as they approached, then backed off and called the SWAT team.
Of the 10 injured, seven remained in hospital Sunday night, with at least one in critical condition.
The shooting happened near the site of a two-day Chinese New Year celebration that closed many downtown streets and drew thousands from across Southern California.
In Monterey Park on Sunday, residents stood and stared at the many blocks that had been taped off by police. Chester Chong, president of the Los Angeles Chinese Chamber of Commerce, described this city with a population of about 60,000 as a quiet, peaceful and beautiful place where everyone understands and helps each other.
The city has been a destination for Chinese immigrants for decades. About 65 percent of the city’s residents are Asian, according to U.S. Census data, and the city is known for its many Chinese restaurants and grocery stores.
“People called me last night and they were afraid it was a hate crime,” Chong said at the scene.
Star Ballroom Dance Studio, which opened in 1990, has many photos on its website from past Lunar New Year festivities of smiling patrons in evening gowns dancing in its brightly lit grand ballroom.
According to a teacher at the studio who asked not to be named, most of its customers are middle-aged or elderly, although children also attend youth dance classes.
“Those are normal staff,” the teacher said. “Some people are retired and just want to exercise or socialize.”
A flyer posted on the website advertises a Saturday night New Year’s party from 7:30pm to 12:30am on Sunday.
Tiffany Chiu, 30, who was celebrating at her parents’ home near the ballroom, said the gunfire was mistaken by some for New Year’s fireworks.
“A lot of older people live here and it’s usually quiet,” she said. “That’s not what you expect here.”
President Joe Biden condemned the killing in a written statement and said he had directed his homeland security adviser to mobilize federal support for local authorities.
The Monterey Park attack was the deadliest since May 2022, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas. The deadliest shooting in California history occurred in 1984 when a gunman killed 21 people at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, near San Diego.
Reporting by Tim Reid in Monterey Park, Jonathan Allen in New York and Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Leah Douglas, Kanishka Singh Additional reporting by Brad Brooks, Raissa Kasolowsky and Jonathan Allen Editing by Paul Thomasch, Frances Kerry, Matthew Lewis, Chris Reese, Mary Milliken and Lisa Shoemaker
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