Vice President Harris visits site of mass shooting

Wave Wire Services

MONTEREY PARK — 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 Jan. 25 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 the shooting occurred Jan. 21.

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 outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, 122 W. Garvey Ave. It was organized by the group Compassion in SGV, and followed vigils Jan. 23 and 24 outside Monterey Park City Hall and the dance studio.

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 and an 11th victim later died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

The coroner’s office identified 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 of the dance studio, friends said.

Nine other people were injured during the shooting. It was unclear exactly how many remained hospitalized. As of Jan. 23, two were still being treated at County-USC Medical Center, with one considered in serious condition.

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 Jan. 22. 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 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 at the studio. Los Angeles Magazine reported that investigators were increasingly leaning toward the idea of domestic violence causing the shooting. 

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, possibly searching for more people he wanted to target.

A neighbor of Tran 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.”

Hemet police confirmed that Tran 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 Jan. 22. 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 — 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 also said Tran had a 1990 arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm.

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 flee.

The weapon that was taken from the suspect in Alhambra was a 9mm semiautomatic MAC-10 assault weapon, Luna said.

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.

The shooting coincided with a large celebration for the Lunar New Year. The city of Monterey Park canceled the 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.

Vigils have been held outside the dance studio and at Monterey Park City Hall nightly since the shootings.

Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet with the families of the victims Jan. 25.

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