The gunman behind the fatal shooting at a dance hall in Monterey Park, a Los Angeles suburb, may have targeted his ex-wife during the Lunar New Year, the California city mayor said Monday.
That revelation came as investigators focused on a personal motive and discounted hate crimes or terrorism as a possible source of inspiration for the attack, multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation said.
The officials stressed that the investigation is still early days, but said evidence gathered at the suspect’s home and in the van where he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday afternoon suggests that the bloodshed was somehow personal. used to be.
The death toll from Saturday’s shooting rose to 11 Monday, with at least nine others being treated for their injuries, officials said. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Monday afternoon that the suspect fired 42 shots at the Monterey Park site.
The sheriff said the shooter used a MAC-10, a compact semi-automatic and sometimes automatic firearm. The weapon was wrested from a second dance hall by a man hailed as a hero.
Luna has called the firearm an “assault weapon.”
On Sunday, the sheriff said he thought it was illegal to own such a gun in California, but the gun’s legality was unclear Monday.
Luna said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI assisted with the investigation.
Huu Can Tran, the 72-year-old suspected gunman, apparently thought his ex-wife was at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio when he stormed in and opened fire on a celebrating crowd, police said.
“My understanding is that he came because his ex-wife was out partying, celebrating the Lunar New Year, and it sounded like there was a history of domestic violence, which is a shame,” Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo told Kate of NBC News. Snow.
Tran filed for divorce in Los Angeles County in 2005, the records show. NBC News has reached out to the person believed to be his ex-wife for comment.
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Police continued to search the suspect’s home in Hemet, a small town about 85 miles east of Los Angeles, on Monday and did not disclose a motive.
Luna said at an afternoon press conference that hundreds of rounds of loose .9mm and .308 cal. ammunition was found in the residence, along with a .308 caliber rifle and evidence that the suspect may have made homemade firearm suppressors, which are illegal in California.
Hemet police information officer Alan Reyes said their records show Tran contacted them a decade ago claiming his family was trying to poison him. The allegation was never investigated because Tran never provided any evidence to support his claims, he said.
Tran died about 12 hours after the carnage from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a white van as a SWAT team approached him, Luna said Sunday.
A Norinco 9mm handgun was found in that vehicle, Luna said Monday.
As the mostly Asian community braced for a wave of funerals, the Los Angeles coroner’s office released the names of some of the victims: My Nhan, 65, Lilan Li, 63, and Valentino Alvero, 68. It was not immediately clear if they knew the shooter.
A vigil is scheduled for Tuesday in Monterey Park.
“We believe it’s important for our community to come together to remember and heal,” Lo said in a statement.
At 72, Tran didn’t fit the age profile of a mass shooter. The median age over the past six decades is 32, according to data collected by The Violence Project, a nonprofit research center funded by the National Institute of Justice.
About 30 minutes after Tran opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, he turned up at another dance studio in the nearby town of Alhambra, police said. There, Tran was stripped of what police described as a “semi-automatic assault pistol” by a member of the family who operates the location before he could harm anyone.
“When he came in, he didn’t say anything,” Brandon Tsay, 26, told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Monday. “His face was very stoic. His expressions were mostly in his eyes… he was looking around for people, trying to scout the area for other people.”
Tsay said at first that he “froze” and was convinced he was going to die.
“But something amazing happened, a miracle actually,” Tsay said. “He started preparing his weapon so he could shoot everyone, but then it dawned on me that now was the time to disarm him. I could do something here that could protect everyone and possibly save myself.”
So Tsay jumped up and was able to wrestle the gun out of Tran’s hands.
“That young man is a hero,” Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat representing the district, said earlier Monday. “He saved so many lives.”
Tran managed to escape, police said. And about a dozen hours after the carnage in Monterey Park, police followed his white van to a parking lot 30 miles away in the suburb of Torrance, where the suspect committed suicide.
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Several pieces of evidence were found in the van that linked Tran to the massacre, Luna said. A gun was also found in the van, he added.
An information center was set up at the Langley Senior Center in Monterey Park, he said, adding that mental health resources were available for “anyone who needs support.”
Families and friends gathered downtown all Sunday, waiting for news of loved ones they feared might be among the dead or injured.
“I tried to reach her, but I got no response,” Monterey Park resident Vivian King said of a friend she last heard from earlier this weekend.
“It’s hard not to know what’s going on,” said Juan Pablo Pinzon, a tourist from Colombia, who said his cousin had been out with friends on Saturday night and had not responded to texts and calls. “Hopefully we hear something soon.”