Hours after a gunman turned a California ballroom into a shooting gallery late Saturday—killing 10 people and wounding 10 others—police said they discovered the escaped suspect in a white cargo van, dead of what was believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The suspect was identified as Huu Can Tran, 72, by Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna at a Sunday afternoon press conference. He opened fire at the Star Dance Studio around 10:22 p.m. PT Saturday in Monterey Park, California, less than an hour after a Lunar New Year festival in the city ended.
Hours later, the septuagenarian was found slumped over the van’s steering wheel by SWAT officers following a standoff in the parking lot of a Japanese grocery store in Torrance, roughly 30 miles away from Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, the site of the shooting.
Reports of Tran’s death signaled the end of an hours-long manhunt that left the entire community on edge through much of Sunday.
“Feel safe,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D), a former Monterey Park mayor, confirming that no other suspects remained at large. “You are no longer in danger because this shooter is gone.”
But many questions remained, not least that of the suspect’s motive. “Did he have a mental illness?” Chu asked. “Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through a legal means or not?”
Adam Hood, who identified himself as a former tenant of the suspect’s, told The Daily Beast that Tran had seemed like “a lone ranger” several years back.
“He didn’t have many friends…” Hood said. “He liked to dance in the ballroom, in Star Dance Studio, and Lai Lai Studio. But it seems to me that he didn’t have friends there.”
His ex-wife, who declined to be identified, told CNN on Sunday that she’d met Tran about 20 years ago at Star Ballroom Dance Studio. An informal teacher there, he’d offered her free lessons, and the pair wed soon after, she said. Their divorce was completed by 2006, with the ex-wife alleging their relationship had been shaped by Tran’s short fuse—his exasperation when she missed a step on the dance floor, for example.
A man identified as “a long-time acquaintance” of Tran’s similarly remembered him as “easily irritated,” quick to complain, and slow to trust others, according to CNN. Despite his proclivity for Star, which he’d visit “almost every night” through the late aughts and early 2010s, Tran was “hostile to a lot of people there,” claiming that the teachers said “evil things about him,” the friend said.
On Saturday January 21, 2023 at 10:22 PM the suspect male/adult/Asian pictured above was involved in a shooting. Investigators have identified him as a Homicide suspect and he should be considered armed and dangerous.
Contact LASD Homicide with any information at 323-890-5000. pic.twitter.com/2gPUBBybvv
— Robert Luna (@LACoSheriff) January 22, 2023
It was unclear how often Tran frequented Star in the years leading up to Sunday’s shooting.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said investigators believed the gunman moved to a second location in neighboring Alhambra shortly after opening fire at the Star. The second location was identified by the Los Angeles Times as the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio. There, two community members—characterized as “heroes” by Luna—disarmed the shooter.
The firearm wrested from the suspect was “a magazine-fed semiautomatic assault pistol” that had “an extended large capacity magazine attached to it,” the sheriff said, adding later that he believed the weapon was illegal to own in the state of California.
“We will do more research on it,” Luna said.
A second handgun was also discovered in the van, which was believed to have stolen license plates.
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