Death toll from California massacre rises to 11 as police look for motive

Police near the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, on Jan 22, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

MONTEREY PARK, California – An 11th victim died from injuries on Monday after an elderly gunman’s deadly rampage at a Los Angeles-area dance hall, California police said, as authorities were still searching for a motive behind one of the state’s worst mass shootings.

Police identified the gunman as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said on Sunday “everything is on the table” in terms of motive for the shooting.

“We don’t know if this is specifically a hate crime defined by law. But who walks into a dance hall and guns down 20 people?” Sheriff Luna told reporters.

Officials worked into Monday trying to identify the 11 people Tran killed at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, about 11km east of downtown Los Angeles.

Tran’s rampage could have been far worse. About 20 minutes after the shooting in Monterey Park, Tran entered the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio dance club in the neighbouring city of Alhambra.

There, Mr Brandon Tsay, a 26-year-old programmer who helps run his family’s dance hall, wrestled a semiautomatic pistol from Tran.

“That moment, it was primal instinct,” Mr Tsay told The New York Times.

Police identified the gunman as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran. PHOTO: AFP

About 12 hours later, police officers in the city of Torrance, 32km south-west of Monterey Park, approached a white cargo van Tran was driving. As officers neared the van, they heard a single gunshot from inside as Tran killed himself.

Sheriff Luna did not identify any of the victims but said the five men and five women appeared to be in their 50s, 60s and older.

He said the pistol Tran used was likely illegal in California, where state laws ban any magazine holding more than 10 rounds.

“We want to know… how something this awful can happen,” Sheriff Luna told reporters.

Local police have obtained a warrant to search Tran’s home in Hemet, California, about 128km east of Monterey Park, CNN reported.

The shooting took place during Chinese New Year, when many streets in downtown Monterey Park were closed for festivities that draw thousands of people from across Southern California.

As news about the shooting spread, some in the tight-knit community of Monterey Park initially feared it was a hate crime targeting Asians.

People place flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the scene of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, California, on Jan 23, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

The city has, for decades, been a destination for immigrants from China. Around 65 per cent of its residents are Asian.

Mr Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, described the city of about 60,000 people as a quiet, peaceful, beautiful place where everybody knows each other and helps each other.

“People were calling me last night. They were scared this was a hate crime,” Mr Chong said at the scene.

The gunshots were mistaken by some for New Year fireworks, according to Tiffany Chiu, 30, who was celebrating at her parents’ home near the ballroom.

“A lot of older people live here, it’s usually really quiet,” she said. “This is not something you expect here.” REUTERS

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