Monterey Park Shooting: Investigators recover weapon, electronic devices from suspect's home

Monterey Park shooter Huu Can Tran, 72, may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted, mayor says

ByAMY TAXIN and DAMIAN DOVARGANES AP logo
Monday, January 23, 2023
Investigators recover weapon, electronic devices from suspect's home
EMBED <>More Videos

Investigators say the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors.

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. -- Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed 11 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations, slayings that sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.

The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in the van that authorities say he used to flee after attempting to attack a second dance hall. The mayor of Monterey Park said Tran may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted.

Officials with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said in a press conference on Monday investigators served a search warrant at Tran's home in Hemet and recovered a .308 caliber rifle and numerous electronics such as cell phones and computers.

Sheriff Robert Luna said the age of the victims range from their 50's and 60's.

Three of the victims have been identified to ABC News as My Nhan, Lilan Li and Xiujuan Yu.

Investigators say the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors.

Forty-two shell casings were recovered from the scene as well as a large capacity magazine.

Officials say they have recovered a handgun from inside the cargo van, which is registered to the suspect.

They also recovered clothing Tran wore during the shooting in the cargo van.

In Alhambra, a 9mm caliber semiautomatic assault weapon was the gun that was wrestled away from the suspect. Police thanked Brandon Tsay who stopped the gunman

The suspect, Huu Can Tran has limited criminal history, but was arrested in 1990 for unlawful possession of a firearm

Hospital officials confirmed to ABC News on Monday that one of the four patients brought to LAC + USC Medical Center has died. This brings the total fatalities from 10 to 11.

"Our heroic staff at LAC+USC Medical Center have worked tirelessly to care for the four victims entrusted to our care. 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.

"Of the remaining victims receiving care at LAC+USC Medical Center, one remains in serious condition. The remaining two patients are recovering. Our medical teams are working around the clock to care for them, and we remain hopeful for their complete recoveries.

The massacre was the nation's fifth mass killing this month, and it struck one of California's largest celebrations of a holiday observed in many Asian cultures, dealing another blow to a community that has been the target of high-profile violence in recent years.

It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

RELATED | What we know about the Monterey Park mass shooting victims so far

Law enforcement officials said the rampage could have been even deadlier. A man whose family runs the second dance hall confronted the assailant in the lobby and wrested the gun from him.

RELATED | Man who disarmed Monterey Park shooter speaks out: 'Something came over me'

Authorities have shared little about Tran.

"We do understand that he may have had a history of visiting this dance hall and perhaps the motivation has to do with some personal relationships. But that's something that I think investigators are still uncovering and investigating," said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Public records show Tran once had addresses in the city and neighboring ones.

But the mayor and LA County Sheriff Robert Luna stressed that the motive remained unclear for the attack, which also wounded 10 people. Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, Luna said all of the people killed appeared to be over 50. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.

The suspect was carrying what Luna described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second handgun was discovered in the van where Tran died.

Within three minutes of receiving the call, officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, according to Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.

There, they found carnage inside and people trying to flee through all the doors.

"When they came into the parking lot, it was chaos," Wiese said.

About 20 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra.

Brandon Tsay was in the lobby at the time, and he told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he thought he was going to die.

"Something came over me. I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him, I needed to take this weapon, disarm him or else everybody would have died," Tsay said. "When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle."

Once Tsay seized the gun, he pointed it at the man and shouted: "Get the hell out of here, I'll shoot, get away, go!"

The assailant paused, but then headed back to his van, and Tsay called the police, the gun still in his hand.

While Luna told reporters on Sunday that two people wrested the weapon away from the attacker, Tsay, who works a few days a week at the dance hall his grandparents started, told The New York Times that he acted alone. Stills from security footage shown on "Good Morning America" showed only the two men struggling for the gun.

The suspect's white van was found in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans.

After surrounding the vehicle for hours, law enforcement officials swarmed and entered it. A person's body appeared to be slumped over the wheel and was later removed. Members of a SWAT team looked through the van's contents before walking away.

Congresswoman Judy Chu said she still has questions about the attack but hopes residents now feel safe.

"The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter," Chu said Sunday at a news conference.

"What was the motive for this shooter?" she said. "Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?"

Governor Gavin Newsom toured Monterey Park on Monday passionately calling for gun reform and lamenting the "rise and repeat" motions that country goes through between mass shootings.

"The number one killer, the number one killer of our kids last year was guns, the hell's wrong with us," he said. "I'm not saying take everybody's guns, and stop that the extreme back and forth is damn common sense common dignity."

"The reason I haven't done all the damn press conferences yesterday (Sunday), I was here the whole day. It's I can't do those again. I can't keep doing the same the same thing over and over again. I mean, it's insane," he added.

Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles and is composed mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans. The shooting happened in the heart of its downtown where red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner that proclaimed "Happy Year of the Rabbit!"

The celebration in Monterey Park is one of California's largest. Two days of festivities, which have been attended by as many as 100,000 people in past years, were planned. But officials canceled Sunday's events following the shooting.

An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the U.S. shows that 2022 was one of the nation's worst years, with 42 such attacks - the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006. The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.

___

Associated Press journalists Andrew Dalton, Jae C. Hong and Eugene Garcia in Los Angeles and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

ABC News contributed to this report.