MONTEREY PARK (CNS) - Los Angeles Sheriff's Department detectives continued to search Monday for the motive that led a 72-year-old man to shoot and kill 10 people and wound another 10 at a Monterey Park ballroom dance studio.
At a Sunday evening news conference, Sheriff Robert Luna identified the shooter as Huu Can Tran, saying he took his own life after he pulled his white van into a Torrance strip mall and was stopped by law enforcement Sunday. A handgun was recovered from the white van he had been driving, along with other potential evidence linking him to the killings.
On Monday morning, the Los Angeles County coroner's office identified two of the women killed as My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63. The names of the other eight fatally wounded victims were withheld, pending notification of their relatives.
A motive for the shooting was still unclear. "That is something that investigators were trying to learn," Luna said. "We want to know what the heck happened here."
There are reports, however, that cite law enforcement as saying the man had been looking for his wife.
Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce L.A., told ABC7 he believed it was a domestic violence incident.
"Sometimes, the wife go (to the dance studio) and the husband does not go," Chong said. "That's why he's so upset, and because we have so many guns, it's too easy to bring a gun over there to kill people. It's horrible, it's very sad."
"This is not a hate crime, this is not," Chong said. "This case is a personal case."
Luna announced Sunday evening that of the 10 victims taken to area hospitals -- including Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center -- seven currently remained. He described the victims, living and dead, as "in their 50s, 60s and beyond." Five of the fatal victims were men, the other five were women.
In an attempt to reassure the frightened community, some of whom would only speak to media anonymously, Luna said, "The suspect responsible for this tragedy is no longer a threat."
The mass shooting occurred at 10:22 p.m. Saturday at Star Dance Studio, in the 100 block of West Garvey Avenue, Homicide Bureau Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. Ten people were pronounced dead at the scene.
Luna described the weapon used as a "magazine-fed semi-automatic assault pistol."
Some 17 minutes after the Monterey Park attack, Tran entered the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in the 100 block of South Garfield Avenue in neighboring Alhambra.
Luna speculated that Tran was going to try to kill more people, "But two brave community members jumped into action and took his gun away," he said, adding that Tran then escaped.
Luna told the New York Times the pistol used in the shooting was probably not legal to own in California. He said the license plates on the van Tran was driving were not legal, and were probably stolen.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese told reporters that the officers from Monterey Park were among the youngest in the department. "They were our newest officers and they arrived at the scene in about three minutes." He said some had only been out of training for two months.
"When they got there, they had to deal with the chaos that was going on at the scene," Wiese said. "People were running out the doors, into the parking lot, screaming and there were victims in the parking lot. Then, they had to deal with the carnage inside the building, which was substantial."
The officers responded to the scene within three minutes of the time of the call.
Wiese said that after the Sunday evening news conference, he was going to meet with his officers. "I need to find out whether they have all that they need to deal with what happened and to continue to make us safe."
On Sunday, Torrance police located a white van matching the suspect vehicle near Sepulveda and Hawthorne boulevards and attempted a traffic stop. The van entered a strip mall parking lot near Del Amo Fashion Center. When officers approached, they heard a single gunshot fired from within the vehicle.
Police then maneuvered two "BearCat" SWAT vehicles on each end of the van, butting up against it, while several police vehicles parked nearby by for additional support.
All lanes at the intersection of Hawthorne and Sepulveda were closed for the police investigation.
A sheriff's department helicopter landed on Hawthorne Boulevard and a bomb squad truck was sent to the strip mall, which contains a Tokyo Central outlet and a Daiso store.
The manhunt drew assistance from the FBI, the ATF, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and a host of local law enforcement agencies.
Authorities made entry into the van shortly before 1 p.m. and found a man slumped in the driver's seat, dead from a gunshot wound. Luna said there was no initial evidence of any law enforcement official firing a weapon.
Fox 11 reported that Riverside County sheriffs deputies, U.S. Marshals and Hemet police served a search warrant at a home inside a senior living community in Hemet where Tran lived alone. Neighbors expressed surprise that he was responsible for the massacre and one neighbor told the station he believed Tran was a ballroom dance instructor.
The attack coincided with a large celebration gathered nearby for the Lunar New Year. The city of Monterey Park canceled Sunday's planned second day of the two-day celebration, but other holiday events were still planned throughout Southern California. Luna said earlier on Sunday that he would attend a similar event that day, and encouraged the public to continue celebrating the holiday.
Police Chief Michel Moore said the Los Angeles Police Department "added patrols across our Asian communities today and will meet with any organizers hosting New Year celebrations."
The Long Beach Police Department also said its officers would increase patrols Sunday.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation, stating:
"As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on January 21, 2023, in Monterey Park, California, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, January 26, 2023. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."
Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that he spent time Sunday in Monterey Park meeting with leaders and people impacted by the tragedy.
"The strength of this community is incredible," Newsom said. "No other country in the world is terrorized by this constant stream of gun violence. We need real gun reform at a national level."
School districts in the Monterey Park area made plans for Monday to deal with fallout from the attack. Alhambra Unified School District schools will have a no pupil day Monday, according to its website.
The Los Angeles Unified School District said on its website it will offer mental health support and keep additional police patrols at Robert Hill Lane Elementary School in Monterey Park.
The Montebello Unified School District announced it would have additional police patrols at all schools bordering the Monterey Park and Alhambra areas and that it had mental health professionals ready to support students, families and staff as needed.
Saturday's mass shooting included the most victims in Los Angeles County since 2008, when a disgruntled ex-husband killed 10 people, including himself, in Covina. It is the deadliest shooting in the U.S. since the massacre in Uvalde, Texas in May.
Anyone with further information about the shooting was asked to call sheriff's homicide detectives at 323-890-5500 or leave anonymous tips on the Crime Stoppers line at 800-222-8477.