Members of the Monterey Park community remain in a state of mourning Tuesday following the deadly massacre at dance studio, leaving investigators and neighbors searching for answers about what prompted the killings.
The death toll from Saturday’s shooting massacre at a Monterey Park dance studio rose to 11 Monday, with officials at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center saying one of the shooting victims being treated there died from “extensive injuries.”
“Our heroic staff at LAC+USC Medical Center have worked tirelessly to care for the four victims entrusted to our care,” Jorge Orozco, CEO of the hospital, said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we are saddened to share that one of the victims has succumbed to their extensive injuries. We want to express our deepest sympathies to their families and loved ones.”
Three other patients from the shooting were taken to County-USC, with one in serious condition, according to the county Department of Health Services. The other two were “recovering,” but hospital officials said late Monday afternoon that one of them — a 73-year-old woman — had been discharged.
On Sunday evening, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said of the 10 people who were initially taken to hospitals following the shooting, three had already been released.
On Monday morning, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office identified two of the 10 people pronounced dead Saturday night as My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63. Two additional victims were identified Monday afternoon as Xiujuan Yu, 57, and Valentino Alvero, 68.
The names of the other victims were withheld, pending notification of their relatives. According to the coroner’s office, they were two women in their 60s, one man in his 60s, and three men in their 70s. The patient who subsequently died at County-USC Medical Center was a woman in her 70s, according to the coroner’s office.
Friends and witnesses said one of the people who died in the gunfire was a well-known dance instructor and owner at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, Ming Wei Ma, believed to be in his 60s.
Nhan’s family — who called her Mymy Nhan — issued a statement saying she was a regular visitor to the dance studio.
“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends,” according to the family. “It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance. We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly. Mymy was 65 years old. If you knew her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was contagious. She was a loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend. Mymy was our biggest cheerleader.”
The gunman, identified by Luna as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white van that was stopped by Torrance police Sunday afternoon. A handgun was recovered from the van, along with other potential evidence linking him to the Saturday night killings at the Star Dance Studio, Luna said.
But the mystery remained about what drove Tran to open fire inside the dance studio after a day of celebration in Monterey Park for the Lunar New Year.
Luna said Monday investigators still have not determined a motive for the shooting.
“We want to know as much as all of you, and we are working very hard to obtain that,” he said.
There were some reports, citing law enforcement sources, that the man had been looking for his wife or partner. Los Angeles Magazine reported that sources were increasingly leaning toward the idea of domestic violence leading to the shooting.
Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles told ABC7 he believed the shooting 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.”
A neighbor of Tran, however, said the gunman lived alone in a senior community in Hemet, in Riverside County.
“Tran was just a nice guy,” neighbor Pat Roth told an Inland News videographer. “I mean, I’d see him riding his little, small motorcycle in and out, once in a while in his van. He’d stop to pet your dog, and everybody around here just thought he was just some quiet, little guy. The people I’ve talked to are just stunned that he was involved in this. Pretty much lived alone, and I guess he taught dance or something, ballroom dance.”
Investigators searched Tran’s Hemet home Sunday night. Luna said among the items found at the home were a .308-caliber rifle, hundreds of rounds of .308-caliber and 9mm ammunition and “items that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors,” or silencers.
Luna said investigators recovered 42 shell casings inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, indicating the number of shots that were fired at the scene of the massacre. A large-capacity magazine was also recovered.
The sheriff confirmed that one of the victims was shot outside the dance studio and was found inside a vehicle. Luna said that person was likely shot before the suspect went into the studio and opened fire again. Luna also said Tran had a 1990 arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm.
The mass shooting occurred at 10:22 p.m. Saturday at Star Ballroom 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.”
About 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 an employee at the studio confronted Tran and wrestled away his gun, prompting him to flee.
The weapon that was taken from the suspect in Alhambra was a 9mm semiautomatic MAC-10 assault weapon, Luna said.
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.
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. He said that driver in the van was Tran.
On Monday, Luna said a handgun was recovered inside the van, along with “clothing that the suspect wore during the commission” of the Monterey Park shooting.
The shooting coincided with a large celebration 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 held throughout Southern California — many with beefed up police presence in response to the shooting.
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.”
Newsom later tweeted a photo of his meeting with Brandon Tsay, the man credited with disarming Tran at the Alhambra studio and potentially saving more lives.
“This is what a hero looks like,” the governor wrote. “Brandon did what no one should ever have to do — stopped a gunman at his place of work from killing countless others. Forever grateful for your courage, Brandon.”
School districts in the Monterey Park area made plans for Monday to deal with fallout from the attack. Alhambra Unified School District schools had no-pupil day Monday, according to its website.
The Los Angeles Unified School District said on its website it was offering 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.
California suffered a second deadly mass shooting in less than three days Monday afternoon when a gunman killed seven people at two locations in Half Moon Bay, about 28 miles south of San Francisco. The suspected gunman was later arrested.
“At the hospital meeting with victims of a mass shooting when I get pulled away to be briefed about another shooting. This time in Half Moon Bay. Tragedy upon tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.