US police focus on jealousy as motive in Chinese New Year shooting: Report

Huu Can Tran used a semi-automatic pistol in a rampage in Monterey Park on Saturday night. PHOTOS: AFP, NYTIMES

MONTEREY PARK, California - Detectives probing why an elderly Asian immigrant shot dead 11 people as they celebrated Chinese New Year at a dance hall in California are examining whether jealousy or a personal dispute was behind the tragedy, a report said Monday.

Huu Can Tran, 72, used a semi-automatic pistol in a rampage in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park on Saturday night, killing men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

He then drove to another dance studio where police say only the quick actions of a young man who wrestled the weapon off him prevented another slaughter.

Hours later, Tran shot himself dead after police found his white van.

Detectives were focusing Monday on Tran’s previous connections to the two dance studios, with personal relationships a key area of interest, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing law enforcement sources.

Monterey Park resident Chester Hong told AFP he believed a domestic dispute over an invitation to a Chinese New Year eve party could be at the root of the attack.

“The wife (was) invited to join the party (but) the husband cannot be invited,” he said on Sunday. “And the husband may be upset and jealous.”

On Monday a picture began to emerge of a man who, according to his marriage licence, had immigrated from China, and who had been a regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in the past.

Tran’s ex-wife told CNN the couple had met there two decades ago when he offered to give her informal lessons.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said they married a short time later, but the relationship did not last, with the divorce finalized in 2006.

She said Tran, who sometimes worked as a truck driver, was not violent, but could be impatient, for example if she messed up a dance step.

A man who said he had previously known Tran well said he would complain about the dance teachers, who, he claimed, would say “evil things about him”, CNN reported.

He was “hostile to a lot of people there,” the man told the broadcaster.

Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have searched the mobile home where Tran had been living in Hemet, a city 140km east of Los Angeles, a place where neighbours said he was a “quiet little guy”.

Police in Hemet said they had contact with Tran this month.

“Tran visited the Hemet Police Department lobby on Jan 7 and 9, 2023, alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago,” Hemet police said.

“Tran stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned.”

Saturday night’s mass shooting was the worst in the United States since a teenage gunman in Uvalde, Texas killed 21 people at an elementary school last May. All but two were children.

Monterey Park mayor Henry Lo kneeling at a makeshift memorial outside the ballroom dance studio on Jan 23, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

The toll from Monterey Park, one of California’s largest Asian communities, rose to 11 on Monday when one of those injured in the attack died in hospital.

The Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center said a total of four victims had been treated at the hospital and one remained in a serious condition.

The coroner in Los Angeles on Monday said all of those who died were in their 50s, 60s or 70s, and named two of the dead women as My Nhan, aged 65 and 63-year-old Lilan Li.

A statement released by Nhan’s family said the tragedy was “still sinking in.”

“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends,” it said.

“It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance. We are starting the Lunar New Year broken.” AFP

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