Live Updates: Gunman on the loose after mass shooting near LA

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MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) – The search for a gunman who killed 10 people at a nightclub during Lunar New Year celebrations ended Sunday when authorities found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the van he used to flee after people thwarted his attempt at a second shot.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the man as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said no other suspects were at large. Speaking at an evening press conference, he added that the motive for the attack was still unclear, which injured 10 more people.

Luna did not give the exact age of the victims, but said they all appeared to be in their 50s. Seven of the injured remain in hospital, he said.

The sheriff added that the suspect was carrying what he described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second weapon was discovered in the van where Tran was found dead.

The Saturday night shooting in the predominantly Asian-American community of Monterey Park cast a shadow over the New Year’s festivities. and sent a wave of fear to Asian-American communities in the Los Angeles area. Other cities sent extra officials to oversee the celebrations.

Also speaking at the press conference, Representative Judy Chu said she still has doubts about the attack but hopes residents will now feel safe.

“The community was scared thinking they shouldn’t go to any events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said, adding, “You are not in danger anymore.”

“What was this sniper’s motive?” she said. “Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?

The previous Sunday, police officers broke into and entered the van after surrounding it for hours before getting inside. A person’s body appeared to have been slumped over the steering wheel and then removed from the vehicle.

Luna previously released photos of an Asian man believed to be the suspect.

The van was found in Torrance, another community that is home to many Asian Americans, about 34.5 kilometers from that second location.

Luna said the shooting was at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.

Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said Sunday night that within three minutes of receiving the call, officers arrived on the scene. There, they found extensive carnage inside and people trying to escape through all the doors.

“When they pulled into the parking lot, it was chaos,” Wiese said.

About 20 to 30 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in nearby Alhambra. But people snatched the gun away from him before he got away, according to Luna.

Hours earlier, Luna said authorities were looking for a white van after witnesses reported seeing the suspect flee the Alhambra in such a vehicle.

Members of a SWAT team entered the van a short time later and examined its contents before driving away.

The massacre was the country’s fifth mass murder this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people died at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Monterey Park is a town of about 60,000 on the east end of Los Angeles and is mostly made up of Asian immigrants from China or first generation Asian Americans. The shooting took place in the heart of downtown, where red lanterns decorated the streets for 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 the largest in California. Two days of festivities have been planned, which have been attended by up to 100,000 people in recent years. But authorities canceled Sunday’s events after the shooting.

Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he went for his morning walk and discovered that the noises he heard during the night were gunshots.

“I thought maybe it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with the Lunar New Year,” he said. “And we don’t even have many fireworks here. It’s strange to see this. It’s really safe here. We’re right in the middle of the city, but it’s pretty safe.”

Wynn Liaw, 57, who lives about two blocks from the Monterey Park studio, said she was appalled that such a crime could happen, especially during New Year’s celebrations.

“Chinese people consider Chinese New Year to be very, very special” – a time when “you don’t do anything that brings you bad luck all year round,” she said.

She took a photo of the activity outside the studio to send to relatives and friends in China “so they know how crazy America is going with all these mass shootings, even in the new year”.

An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass murders in the US shows that 2022 was one of the country’s worst years, with 42 such attacks – the second-highest number since the tracker was created in 2006. The database defines a mass murder as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.

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

President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the situation, aides said. Biden said he and First Lady Jill Biden were thinking of the dead and injured and instructed federal officials to support the investigation.

The Star Ballroom Dance Studio is a few blocks from City Hall, on Monterey Park’s main thoroughfare on Garvey Avenue, dotted with small business malls whose signs are in both English and Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin are widely spoken, Chinese holidays are celebrated and Chinese films are regularly shown in the city.

The company offered dance classes from tango to rumba to fox trot and rented its space for events. On Saturday, according to its website, it was hosting an event called “Star Night” from 8 pm to 11:30 pm.

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Associated Press writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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