As investigators continued to seek a motive for the weekend mass shooting that left 11 dead in Monterey Park, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the city Wednesday to meet with the families of the victims killed, while also calling on Congress to enact “reasonable” gun-control measures.
Harris arrived at Los Angeles International Airport shortly before 4:30 p.m. and was greeted by officials including Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and county Sheriff Robert Luna. She then rode in a motorcade to Monterey Park, where she placed flowers at a growing memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where Saturday night’s shooting occurred.
She said she would be meeting with victims’ families and speaking to local officials. But speaking to reporters outside the dance studio, she decried a spate of multiple-victim shootings in the country since the beginning of the year and said while it’s important to support victims, “we must also require that leaders in our nation who have the ability and the power and the responsibility to do something, that they act.”
“California has been courageous as a leader on the issue of smart gun-safety laws, but we also need Congress to act,” she said, adding that the nation needs a “uniform approach” that protects 2nd Amendment rights but includes “reasonable” gun laws.
A vigil — the third in three nights in the city — was also being held Wednesday night outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, 122 W. Garvey Ave. The vigil was organized by the group Compassion in SGV, and follows vigils on Monday and Tuesday nights outside Monterey Park City Hall.
Meanwhile, investigators continued pouring over evidence as they tried to determine what led a 72-year-old man to gun down 11 people and wound nine others Saturday night in the deadliest mass shooting in Los Angeles County history.
Ten people died at the scene of the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. An 11th victim later died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
The coroner’s office on Tuesday identified all of the victims as:
— My Nhan, 65;
— Lilian Li, 63;
— Xiujuan Yu, 57;
— Muoi Ung, 67;
— Hong Jian, 62;
— Yu Kao, 72;
— Chia Yau, 76;
— Valentino Alvero, 68;
— Wen Yu, 64;
— Ming Ma, 72; and
— Diana Tom, 70.
Ming Ma was a popular instructor and owner at the dance studio, friends said.
The gunman, identified by Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert 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 killings at the 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 initial reports, citing law enforcement sources, that the man had been looking for his wife or partner at the studio. But a longtime acquaintance of the suspect told KNX Newsradio that the man was known for his temper, suggesting he may have acted out against specific people with whom he had lingering personal grudges.
Some media reports also suggested the gunman was targeting specific people, possibly explaining why he went to a second dance studio in Alhambra after the initial shooting, searching for more people he wanted to target.
Police in the Riverside County community of Hemet, where Tran lived, said Monday that he went to the Hemet Police Department twice in early January “alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago. Tran stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned.”
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 that occurred at 10:22 p.m. Saturday. A large-capacity magazine was also recovered.
The sheriff confirmed that one of the victims — possibly Nhan — 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.
Luna described the weapon used in the killings 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 there, but 26-year-old employee Brandon Tsay, whose family runs the studio, confronted Tran and wrestled away his gun, prompting him to leave.
The weapon that was taken from the suspect in Alhambra was a 9mm semiautomatic MAC-10 assault weapon, Luna said.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the shooting, Torrance police located a white van matching the suspect’s vehicle near Sepulveda and Hawthorne boulevards and attempted a traffic stop. The van entered the parking lot of a strip mall around the corner from 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 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 the 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.
Saturday’s mass shooting claimed 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 United States 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.