After circling a white van possibly containing the suspect in the Monterey Park mass killing, police entered the van early Sunday afternoon.
The suspect left 10 people dead and at least 10 hospitalized. The van was located near the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, and a SWAT team boxed in the vehicle and gunshots were heard before police entered.
The attack occurred at 10:22 p.m. Saturday at the Star Dance Studio in the 100 block of West Garvey Avenue, Homicide Bureau Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told reporters at the scene during an early morning news conference.
Ten people were pronounced dead at the scene and the 10 injured were listed in stable to critical condition at area hospitals including Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, Meyer said. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the 10 dead were five men and five women.
About 17 minutes after the Monterey Park shooting, a man walked into the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in the 100 block of South Garfield Avenue in neighboring Alhambra with a gun, but some people wrestled the weapon away from him and he fled, Luna said.
In what he called a “preliminary description,” Luna said the shooter was an Asian man between 30 and 50 years old. The sheriff’s department later released surveillance images of the suspect and added that he was 5-feet-10 inches tall and 150 pounds, and last seen wearing a black leather jacket, a beanie and glasses.
Luna added that authorities were searching for a white cargo van the suspect might have used to escape.
Torrance police later cornered a white van near Sepulveda and Hawthorne boulevards in parking lot at the large mall. Police maneuvered two SWAT vehicles on either end of the van, butting up against it, while a large number of police vehicles stood by for support.
All lanes at the intersection of Hawthorne and Sepulveda were closed for the police investigation.
The motive has not been released, but the shooting took place near a large celebration for the Chinese 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 at a Sunday morning news conference that he would be attending a similar event in a few hours, and encouraged the public to continue celebrating the holiday.
Police Chief Michel Moore said the Los Angeles Police Department has “added patrols across our Asian communities today and will meet with any organizers hosting New Year celebrations.”
“We are working closely with @LASDHQ and @MontereyParkPD to support in any manner possible. Such a tragic loss of life and a dark day,” Moore tweeted.
The Long Beach Police Department also said its officers would be increasing patrols Sunday.
The manhunt was drawing assistance from the FBI, the ATF, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and a host of local law enforcement agencies. Luna said authorities recovered the weapon from the Alhambra incident, but he did not say what kind of weapon was used in the Monterey Park shooting.
Asked if it might be a hate crime, the sheriff said, “Everything is on the table.”
However, Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce L.A., told ABC7 that he knew the husband and wife who own the studio and he believed it was a domestic violence incident.
“Sometimes, the wife go (to the dance studio) and the husband does not go. 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,” Chong said.
“This is not a hate crime, this is not. This case is a personal case,” he said.
Chong’s account was unconfirmed.
A news videographer at the scene in Alhambra said people at the business were able to disarm the male suspect, who fled the scene, and no injuries were reported.
The Monterey Park shooting occurred about an hour after thousands of people had been in the area for the first day of a two-day Lunar New Year festival that had ended before the shots were fired. Most of the crowds had already left the area.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese told reporters the second day of the event scheduled for Sunday was canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The City of Monterey Park is saddened to announce that there was a shooting incident that occurred at 122 West Garvey in the City of Monterey Park late on Saturday, January 21,” officials said. “The City expresses condolences to the individuals, families, and friends who were injured in this tragic incident. Even though the incident did not occur at the 2023 Lunar New Year Festival, an active investigation is currently underway and the area near and around the festival is affected.”
In light of the shooting, the USC Pacific Asia Museum canceled its Lunar New Year Festival that was scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
“All of us at USC PAM are heartbroken to hear about the horrific violence that happened in our home in the San Gabriel Valley,” Museum Director Bethany Montagano said. “Our hearts mourn with the victims’ families and our community members at this time.”
When Monterey Park police officers arrived they saw numerous patrons pouring out of the business, screaming, Meyer said. He said detectives will review surveillance video and “work every lead in the case.”
Seung Won Choi, who owns a seafood barbecue restaurant across the street from the shooting site, told the Los Angeles Times that three people rushed into his restaurant and told him to lock the door because a man with a semiautomatic gun was in the area, The Times reported.
They told Choi the shooter had multiple rounds of ammunition and was able to reload his weapon, according to the paper.
Video from the scene showed first responders from other jurisdictions helping their Monterey Park counterparts. Patrol vehicles from Alhambra and El Monte were observed as well as an ambulance from South Pasadena.
Jorge Orozco, CEO of LAC+USC Medical Center, released the following statement late Sunday morning:
“At this time, we can confirm that our LAC+USC Medical Center has received four of the victims of the Monterey Park Mass Shooting … Due to Federal HIPAA patient privacy laws, we are unable to share details on our patients’ status. However, we want to assure the families of those at our LAC+USC Medical Center that our medical teams are doing everything possible to care for their loved ones.
“Finally, we want to express our profound sympathies to the families and loved ones of those whose lives were violently taken in this tragedy.”
Early Sunday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden is monitoring the situation.
“The President has been briefed by the Homeland Security Advisor on the mass shooting in Monterey Park,” Jean-Pierre tweeted. “He directed her to make sure that the FBI is providing full support to local authorities, and to update him regularly today as more details are known.
Biden later tweeted the following statement: “Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in last night’s deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park. I’m monitoring this situation closely as it develops, and urge the community to follow guidance from local officials and law enforcement in the hours ahead.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom also shared his thoughts on Twitter.
“Monterey Park should have had a night of joyful celebration of the Lunar New Year,” Newsom tweeted. “Instead, they were the victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence. Our hearts mourn as we learn more about the devastating acts of last night. We are monitoring the situation closely.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George GascÃ³n tweeted: “The mass shooting that occurred overnight in Monterey Park is unspeakable. Our office has been on site with Monterey Park PD, LASD, and our federal law enforcement partners. No community should have to experience a horrific tragedy like this — especially on a day meant for festivity and joy. We stand with the Monterey Park Community and everyone involved.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu also tweeted about the mass shooting in her district: “My heart is broken for the victims, their families, and the people of my hometown Monterey Park who were impacted by the mass shooting that took place during a night of Lunar New Year celebrations,” Chu tweeted. “I am closely following the situation.”
Mayors from neighboring cities tweeted their support for Monterey Park.
“The reports coming out of Monterey Park are absolutely devastating,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass tweeted. “Families deserve to celebrate the holidays in peace — mass shootings and gun violence are a plague on our communities. As investigations determine whether these murders were motivated by Asian hate, we continue to stand united against all attempts to divide us. My heart goes out to Monterey Park, and the families and friends of those lost.”
“I am in a state of shock, heartbreak and devastation,” Alhambra Mayor Sasha Renee Perez said on Twitter. “A mass shooting has occurred in our neighboring City of Monterey Park. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones. Our community stands ready to do whatever we can to support all those impacted.
“To have this tragedy occur on Lunar New Year weekend, makes this especially painful,” Perez added. “Monterey Park is home to one of the largest #AAPI communities in the country. This is a time when residents should be celebrating with family, friends and loved ones – not fearing gun violence.”
Diamond Bar Mayor Andrew Chou tweeted: “Our prayers are with our friends and colleagues in the great city of Monterey Park. We stand ready to lend our support during this difficult time as we wait for more confirmed details of an alleged mass shooting incident.”
Officials with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders tweeted: “As millions come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year, we are devastated by news of yet another mass shooting in America. Our team is monitoring the situation in Monterey Park, California. We grieve for the families whose loved ones were killed and wounded in the attack.”
“Just heard the horrifying news out of Monterey Park, CA. A whole community wracked by gun violence and death, on what should have been a joyous Lunar New Year celebration, ” Actor George Takei wrote on Twitter. “No motive is yet known. But we must act to end the ability of murderers to take so many lives so brutally.”
Saturday’s shooting was the worst mass shooting in Los Angeles County since a disgruntled ex-husband killed 10 people, including himself, in Covina in 2008.
Monterey Park has a population of about 61,000, roughly 66% of whom are Asian. Witnesses said several of Saturday’s victims were senior citizens who appeared to be Asian.
About 50% of Alhambra’s population of nearly 82,000 is Asian.
Hate crimes targeting Asians increased by 339% nationwide in 2021, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported.
Anyone with 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.