Mass Shooting Suspect Found Dead in Van After SWAT Standoff in Torrance

Law enforcement vehicles surround the suspects white van in Torrance. Courtesy OnScene.TV

A suspect in a mass shooting in which 10 people were killed and another 10 wounded at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park was found dead inside a white van at a Torrance strip mall after a Sunday standoff with law enforcement.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has identified the gunman as Huu Can Tran, 72. Authorities said the man turned a handgun on himself Sunday morning when approached by police.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said during a Sunday evening press conference the motive for Saturday’s mass shooting was not known and that the suspect wielded a pistol with a high-capacity magazine.

“We want to know, we want to know how something this awful can happen,” Luna told reporters.

The mass shooting 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. Luna said the 10 dead were five men and five women all aged 50 or older.

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 two people wrestled the weapon away from him and he fled, Luna said.

In what he earlier had 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 taken from the Alhambra incident and added that he was 5-feet-10 inches tall and 150 pounds, and last seen wearing a black leather jacket, beanie and glasses.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna speaks at an evening news conference in the aftermath of a shooting during a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, Jan. 22. REUTERS/Alan Devall

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 at a parking lot on the south side of Sepulveda Boulevard, just west of Hawthorne Boulevard, at a strip mall not far from Del Amo Fashion Center. 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.

A law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that shots were fired, but it was not clear if anyone was hit. A bomb squad truck was sent to the strip mall, which contains a Tokyo Central outlet and a Daiso store. A sheriff’s department helicopter also landed on Hawthorne Boulevard and was standing by.

Authorities entered the van shortly before 1 p.m. and found a man in the driver’s seat dead from one or more gunshot wounds. It was not immediately clear if the wounds were self-inflicted or if the man was shot by police or sheriff’s personnel.

Luna said at a news briefing later Sunday that authorities did not know for sure whether the person in the van was connected to the two earlier crimes. He said authorities had the suspect’s name, but were not releasing it yet because they believe it could hamper efforts to take him into custody.

The motive for Saturday’s attack 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.

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.

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.

Ten people were killed and at least 10 others were wounded in a mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park on Saturday night, and authorities cornered a vehicle containing the possible suspect at a strip mall in Torrance Sunday.

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 taken from the Alhambra incident 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.

All lanes at the intersection of Hawthorne and Sepulveda were closed for the investigation.

A law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that shots were fired, but it was not clear if anyone was hit. A bomb squad truck was sent to the strip mall, which contains a Tokyo Central outlet and a Daiso store.

A sheriff’s department helicopter also landed on Hawthorne Boulevard and was standing by.

The motive for Saturday’s attack 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.

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. Luna said sheriff’s officials recovered the weapon, which he said was not a high-powered assault-type weapon. The sheriff cautioned that it was not necessarily the suspect’s only weapon.

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.

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.

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.

– Reuters contributed to this report.

Updated 5:30 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. Jan. 22, 2023