MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (KABC) — Authorities are still trying to determine the motive of the gunman who killed 10 people and injured 10 others at a Monterey Park dance studio, killings that have left the community in shock.
The suspect, Huu Can Tran, 72, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in a van in Torrance on Sunday, the end of an hours manhunt for the gunman.
According to police, the suspect had no criminal record that were found. Investigators are investigating the possibility that domestic violence may have played a role in Saturday’s mass shooting.
The next day, officers broke into and entered the van attached to the suspect, after surrounding it for hours before getting inside. A person’s body appeared to be slumped over the steering wheel and was later removed from the vehicle. At an evening press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed that the body found was that of the alleged shooter.
Authorities said Tran used that van to flee after being stopped from attacking another dance hall in the Alhambra, about 17 minutes after he opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on West Garvey Avenue.
In the Alhambra ballroom, Tran walked in with a gun and some individuals fought to fend her off, Luna said.
A surveillance image obtained by Eyewitness News shows the moment a man inside the Lai Lai Ballroom confronted the suspect and disarmed him. Tran then fled the scene.
Very little is known about Tran or her connection to the target community and dance halls. Public records show he once had addresses in Monterey Park and surrounding towns.
But Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the motive for the attack was still unclear, which also injured 10 people. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday night, Luna said all the people killed appeared to be in their 50s. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.
“I still have questions in my mind, which are: what was this shooter’s motive? Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence perpetrator? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?” said Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Luna added that the suspect was carrying what he described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, which the sheriff said he believed was illegal in California. A second gun was discovered in the van where Tran was found dead.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said Sunday night that three minutes after receiving the call, shortly after 10 pm on Saturday, officers arrived at the dance studio in Monterey Park. There, they found carnage inside and people trying to escape through all the doors.
“When they pulled into the parking lot, it was chaos,” Wiese said.
“The first officers on the scene were some of my younger officers,” said Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese. “They were on the street a little while ago.”
Wiese said the officers arrived at a scene that “none of them were prepared for” but didn’t hesitate to enter.
Luna said authorities were looking for the white van after witnesses reported seeing the suspect flee the Alhambra in such a vehicle.
Sources told ABC7 that the van’s license plates were stolen. The LA County Sheriff picked up that sign at the Alhambra. Using information from the car’s license plate, the Torrance Police Department stopped the van at around 10:20 am.
WATCH: Van linked to Monterey Park shooting suspect had license plates stolen, sources say
Police heard a gunshot from inside the vehicle after the driver pulled into the parking lot. Police tactical units were then called to the scene.
“So information sharing is what led to the Torrance Police Department being able to do good police work in locating this van on their streets,” said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn.
Law enforcement was seen converging on the suspect’s mobile home in Hemet on Sunday night after serving a search warrant.
Tran lived there for about a year, according to neighbors. Pat Roth says he was a dance instructor but didn’t know much else about him. He says he lived alone.
“He didn’t seem to have a bone of anger in his body, but that’s just watching him come and go,” Roth said. “Then I don’t know. It’s a little unnerving.”
Meanwhile, seven of the injured remained in hospital on Sunday night, Luna said.
The sheriff said the department generally does not release the names of hospitals where victims of violent crimes are being treated. But in this case, he said, a disturbing incident reinforces the decision to keep that information private.
“Somebody called one of these hospitals to say something like they want to finish the job,” Luna said. “This is absolutely horrible.”
“Please, these victims and survivors are dealing with so much. Let’s not traumatize them anymore.”
All families and victims affected by the shooting are encouraged to go to the Langley Senior Center at 400 W. Emerson Avenue, where there is a crisis response team.
Luna said five women and five men were among the dead.
Those victims have yet to be officially identified by authorities, but friends have identified one of the dead people as dance instructor Ming Wei Ma. He was known for his patience and understanding.
Friends say he gave his life trying to save others.
“Mr. Ma, who is very loved and respected in the dance community, and he has been doing this for over 20 years – he was trying to stop the shooter and passed away,” said friend Eric Chen.
The Monterey Park massacre was the nation’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.
The shooting took place in the heart of downtown, where red lanterns decorated the streets for Lunar New Year festivities. 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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