It’s still not clear why a 72-year-old man unleashed a hail of bullets on revelers celebrating the Lunar New Year — killing 10 people, injuring 10 others and destroying the predominantly Asian-American city of Monterey Park, California , was destroyed.
And with the gunman, Huu Can Tran, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the answer may never be known.
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But as mourners mourn an unfathomable tragedy on what should have been the most auspicious day for many Asian Americans, authorities are praising “heroes” for helping to prevent even more carnage after yet another mass shooting in America.
Here’s the latest from the Saturday night massacre investigation:
• Tran shot himself dead in the nearby town of Torrance on Sunday afternoon as police approached his vehicle – a white van that matched the one they were looking for – police said.
• Tran had shot 20 people at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park before driving to another dance hall in nearby Alhambra where he brandished a semi-automatic weapon, investigators said.
• Two people in the Alhambra dance hall wrestled the gun away from the gunman, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said. “The suspect went to the Alhambra site after leading the shooting (in Monterey Park), and he was disarmed by two community members whom I consider heroes,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna. “They have saved lives. This could have been much worse.”
• The weapon was a Cobray M11 9mm semi-automatic weapon, a law enforcement officer told CNN. It is designed to take 30-round magazines that allow rapid firing without having to change magazines often. The gun was traced to the suspect and authorities provided his name and description.
• Investigators found “multiple pieces of evidence” in Tran’s white van linking him to the Monterey Park and Alhambra dance studios, the sheriff said, without providing further details. They also found a gun, Luna said.
• The dead included two women — My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63 — the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said Monday. Nine of the 10 victims were in their 60s or 70s, and all — five men and five women — were over 50. Authorities are working to identify the others and notify loved ones.
• The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has obtained a search warrant for Tran’s home in the retirement community, about 80 miles east of Monterey Park – The Lakes at Hemet West – a spokesman for the Hemet Police Department confirmed.
• The Monterey Park massacre marks one of at least 36 mass shootings in the US so far this month.
When police arrived at the Monterey Park dance studio, “they encountered a scene that none of them were prepared for,” Police Chief Scott Wiese said. The killer had committed an “extensive” massacre before fleeing the scene.
A few miles away in Alhambra, Brandon Tsay was working at the box office of the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, oblivious to the carnage. Then the same gunman entered the business his family had owned for three generations.
“From his body language, his facial expression, his eyes, he was looking for people,” Tsay told The New York Times.
“He looked at me and looked around, not hiding that he was trying to do harm,” he said. “His eyes were menacing.”
The gunman pointed a semi-automatic weapon at Tsay — the first gun he’d seen in real life — he told the Times.
“My heart sank,” he said, “I knew I was going to die.”
Tsay struggled with the man for about a minute and a half and finally wrestled the gun from him when the man took his hand off, he told the Times.
“That moment was the primal instinct,” he said. “I don’t know what came over me.”
Once Tsay gained control of the gun, he told the Times, he aimed it back at the suspect and yelled at him to “get out of here.”
Tran had once been a familiar face at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where he taught informal dance classes, three people who knew him told CNN. But it’s not clear how many times he’s been in recent years, if at all.
He even met his ex-wife there about 20 years ago after seeing her at a dance, introducing himself and offering her free lessons, the ex-wife said.
Tran sometimes worked as a truck driver, his ex-wife said. He was an immigrant from China, according to a copy of his marriage certificate she showed CNN.
The two married shortly after meeting, according to the ex-wife, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
And Tran had a short temper, his ex-wife and others said.
While he was never violent towards her, the ex-wife said, Tran would get upset if she missed a step dance because he thought he looked bad.
Tran filed for divorce in late 2005, and a judge approved the divorce a year later, according to Los Angeles court records.
Another old acquaintance of Tran also remembered him as a regular at the dance studio. The friend, who also asked not to be named, was close to Tran in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when he said Tran would come to the dance studio “almost every night” from his home in nearby San Gabriel.
At the time, Tran often complained that the dance hall instructors didn’t like him and “said bad things about him,” the friend recalled. He said Tran was “hostile to a lot of people there”.
More generally, Tran was irritable, complained a lot and didn’t seem to trust people, the friend said.
Tran’s boyfriend was “totally shocked” when he learned of the shooting, he said, noting that he hadn’t seen Tran in several years.
“I know a lot of people, and when they go to Star Studio, they come there a lot,” said the friend. He said he was “concerned that I might know some of” the victims of the shooting.
Despite a spate of deadly attacks and harassment against Asian Americans during the pandemic, Saturday’s attack shocked many in Monterey Park — where about 65% of residents are of Asian descent and some 100,000 people from across Southern California typically attend. the celebration of the lunar new year.
“I’ve lived here for 37 years, and I never imagined something so horrible would happen,” Rep. Judy Chu, who represents Monterey Park in Congress, told CNN on Sunday.
“This is a tight-knit community and it has been very peaceful all these years. That is why it is all the more shocking that this is happening.”