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Authorities Say There Are No Clear Ties Between Monterey Park Shooter And Victims. 3 Weapons Are Recovered

A sea of floral bouquets and candles covers a sidewalk as people and cameras appear in the back.
A vigil Wednesday night outside the dance studio where 11 people were killed by a gunman. L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna released new details Wednesday about the shooting.
(Chris Farias
/
LAist)
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The Basics

Late Saturday night, Jan. 21, a gunman walked into a ballroom dance studio in the San Gabriel Valley's Monterey Park and killed 10 people and wounded 10 others.

An 11th victim died at a hospital two days later.

The shooter was identified by authorities as Huu Can Tran, 72. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound late Sunday morning in Torrance after police surrounded his vehicle.

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Investigators are continuing to look into his motivation and the circumstances leading up to the attack at Star Dance — as well as his thwarted efforts at another nearby dance studio where a brave employee wrestled away his weapon.

Late Wednesday, L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna offered new details about the weapons recovered and a motorcycle found near the scene.

Here's what we know so far:

What We Know About The Victims

All 11 victims who were killed have been identified by officials:

  • Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68
  • Hongying Jian, 62
  • Yu Lun Kao, 72
  • Lilan Li, 63
  • Ming Wei Ma, 72
  • My My Nhan, 65
  • Diana Man Ling Tom, 70
  • Muoi Dai Ung, 67
  • Chia Ling Yau, 76
  • Wen Tau Yu, 64
  • Xiujuan Yu, 57

What Happened That Night

Police tape and barricades block a parking lot in strip mall at night. The name of the dance studio, Star Dance is partially visible as people who appear to be in unifrome stand near a vehicle with an open back hatch.
Law enforcement at the scene of the shooting.
(Eric Thayer
/
Getty Images)

The Monterey Park Police Department received numerous calls reporting a shooting in progress between 10:22 and 10:23 p.m. Saturday night, according to Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.

One victim was shot in a vehicle outside the dance hall — officials believe this person was likely shot before the shooter "started his rampage going inside," L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna said.

Officers were at the scene at the Star Dance studio within 3-4 minutes, Wiese said — after dealing with those fleeing the location, including both those who were shot and those who hadn't been shot, they went inside.

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"Imagine people coming out, and my officers swimming upstream to get inside to stop the problem," Wiese said.

Investigators recovered 42 shell casings and a large capacity magazine from the scene, indicating the suspect fired 42 rounds at Star Dance, according to Luna. A large Lunar New Year festival had concluded down the street about an hour before the shooting.

Latest Update

Luna said late Wednesday that the gun that Tran used to kill the 11 people had been purchased by Tran in Monterey Park in Feb. 1999. It was recovered in Alhambra, during a struggle. Luna said that weapon was not registered in California. Authorities believe he used the weapon in a spraying fashion in the studio.

They recovered three firearms in all:

  • The weapon Luna said they believed to be used in the homicides (not registered)
  • The weapon they believed Tran used to kill himself (registered)
  • A rifle recovered from Tran's home in Hemet (registered)

He also said investigators have been unable to draw a direct connection — including any romantic connections — between Tran and any of the victims.

Luna also said the investigation, to date, had found no evidence — prior to the attack late Saturday — that Tran had been at Star Dance in the last five years. A longtime friend and his former wife had said, at one time, he was a regular at the studio and the other where he also showed up with a weapon.

In addition, Luna said they'd found a motorcycle connected to Tran within a block of Star Dance — although he appeared to use the van where he was found dead Sunday morning in Torrance. That motorcyle was located Wednesday and investigators said it had been placed there shortly before the shooting and "was placed there as an alternative getaway vehicle."

Luna said they did not have any information about how long Tran may have been planning the attack. He also said, at this point, they did not have any information about whether he had military training.

Authorities said he was of Vietnamese descent but had lived in Hong Kong.

Disarmed At A Second Dance Studio

After the shooting at Star Dance, the suspect headed to a second dance studio in Alhambra, according to officials.

The death toll could have been higher without the intervention of a bystander at Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra, about 15-20 minutes after the initial shooting.

Security camera footage shows how the shooter was disarmed by an unarmed Brandon Tsay, according to footage shared by news outlets including ABC News.

After being disarmed, Tran ran away.

Early information had indicated there may have been two people involved in disarming the shooter, but Luna said Monday there was just one.

About Monterey Park, Star Dance, And The Lunar New Year Celebration

Blockades and a Do Not enter sign block a road where tents sit empty. A decorative sign stretches across the road with red lanterns hanging from it.
The scene Sunday morning on what should have been a busy stretch of road hosting a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park.
(Phoenix Tso
/
LAist)

The Star Dance studio has been in business more than 30 years, according to its website. People in the area say it's a popular spot for older Chinese people — anyone can come in to learn to dance.

Monterey Park, in the San Gabriel Valley, is 65% Asian and home to many immigrants from China and Taiwan.

The city's Lunar New Year celebration is one of the largest in Southern California, with estimated crowds of more than 100,000 people in previous years.

This was the worst mass shooting in L.A. County history, Supervisor Janice Hahn said Monday.

"Los Angeles County is in mourning," she said.

What We Know About The Shooter

Three people in dark suits walk down the street next to buildings behind the yellow do not cross tape during the day.
FBI agents at the scene of the shooting.
(Josie Huang
/
LAist )

While officials have identified the shooter as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, they have yet to determine a motive. The FBI is assisting the Sheriff's Department on that front.

"This is disturbing. How can you even come to reason that somebody would even think about doing something like this?" Luna said.

A man who described himself as a former longtime friend said Tran used to visit Star Dance and Lai Lai Ballroom almost nightly.

"That’s the only place he could go and that was the only thing he was interested in," the former friend said.

Police in Hemet, where Tran owned a home, said he visited a police station on Jan. 7 and Jan. 9 — about a week prior to the shooting — "alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago." He told authorities he would return with documentation, but never did.

When L.A. Sheriff's investigators searched Tran's Hemet home, they recovered a variety of items, including:

  • A .308 caliber rifle
  • Electronic devices, such as cell phones and computers
  • Items that led investigators to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors
  • Hundreds of rounds of .308 caliber and 9-millimeter caliber ammunition

Tran had previously lived in the city of San Gabriel, according to public records.
Read more: What We Know About The Gunman In the Monterey Park Mass Shooting

Why Local Police Called For Help

Monterey Park Chief Scott Wiese arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after the shooting.

"I don't live that far away. I walked the scene, and it was very clear to me that I couldn't handle this on my own, with the people I have. It was going to be too much of a burden," Wiese said.

His first call was to the homicide bureau at the Sheriff's Department, with his next to Luna. It is common for smaller police departments in L.A. County to work with the Sheriff's Department on major crimes.

Wiese was first sworn in the Thursday night before the shooting — after acting in the role for several months.

"I'm a relatively new chief," Wiese said. "So it's a little bit of trial by fire for me, but I had a lot of chiefs help out when I needed that assistance."

Recent Mass Shootings

On Monday, seven people were shot to death in two shooting authorities say were connected. The suspected shooter in that case — a 67-year-old man — has been taken into custody.

NPR has been reporting on the death toll attributed to gun violence this year:


  • There have been 39 mass shootings since the start of the year (so, shootings in which there were a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including the shooter).
  • Some 26 mass shootings had occurred by this same point in 2022.
  • An estimated 2,801 people have died by gun violence this year so far.
  • Of those, the majority, 1,584 people, died by suicide.

How You Can Help

GoFundMe has set up a dedicated fundraising page to support survivors and loved ones of the mass shooting. The list includes:

These funds are verified, according to GoFundMe, meaning its team is ensuring donations will be used as claimed. You can see the full list here.

Authorities are asking anyone with information regarding the Monterey Park shooting to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you can call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

Resources For The AAPI Community

If you need help

Langley Senior Citizen Center in Monterey Park was set up as a resource center for survivors and the family and friends of victims. It's offering food, shelter, counseling, translation, and immigration services.

  • Address: 400 W Emerson Avenue, Monterey Park, CA 91754
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Corrected January 24, 2023 at 4:21 PM PST
An earlier version of this story had incomplete names for the victims. The L.A. County Coroner has now released updated names.