The gunman in the deadly shooting at a dance hall in Monterey Park that left 10 people dead and at least 10 others injured as they celebrated the Lunar New Year may have been targeting his ex-wife and may have had a “history of domestic violence,” the city’s mayor said Monday.
Speaking with NBC News’ Kate Snow, Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo said he believed the ex-wife had been at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio when the shooter, identified by authorities as Huu Can Tran, opened fire at the dance hall.
He said there appeared to be a “history of domestic violence” and that it was possible the suspect had been targeting his ex-wife, but did not expand further.
Investigators were probing the background of the suspect after the mass shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio rocked the majority-Asian community as it gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Saturday.
Tran, 72, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being stopped by authorities following a manhunt, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Sunday.
“The unimaginable happened in our community last evening,” Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo said in a statement Sunday, calling the deadly shooting a “horrible tragedy.”
“We understand our community is looking for answers,” he said, promising to update residents as the investigation continues.
Sources familiar with the investigation said a person in a white van subjected to a traffic stop in the coastal city of Torrance, about 30 miles from the crime scene, had fit the description of a person seen at crime scenes in both Monterey Park and adjacent Alhambra, where a gunman had entered another dance hall with a firearm shortly after the shooting in Monterey Park.
The gunman was quickly disarmed by community members in the second incident and managed to flee the scene.
As authorities, including SWAT officers, moved in on the van, they found the suspect had died. Several pieces of evidence in the van linked him to both crime scenes, Luna said. A handgun was also found in the van, he added.
A motive in the deadly incident is still unclear, Luna said.
The possibility of a hate crime was part of the probe, but authorities were also working to determine whether the suspect knew any of the victims, Luna said. Ultimately, he said, getting answers will take time.
“We don’t know if this is specifically a hate crime defined by law, but who walks into a dance hall and guns down 20 people?” Luna said earlier Sunday “The description we have now is of a male Asian. Does that matter? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything’s on the table.”
Residents of Monterey Park appeared to be on alert Sunday, with Lo saying the city’s emergency dispatch centers were being “inundated with calls.”
“The Monterey Park Police Department is asking for the public’s help in only utilizing 911 for emergency related calls,” he said.
A survivors resource center was established at Monterey Park’s Langley Senior Center, he said, adding that mental health resources were available for “anyone who needs support.”
Families and friends gathered at the center through much of Sunday, waiting to hear news of loved ones who they feared might have been among the 10 people killed or injured.
“I tried to reach her, but I didn’t get any response,” Monterey Park resident Vivian King said of a friend she last heard from earlier in the weekend.
“It’s difficult not knowing what’s going on,” said Juan Pablo Pinzon, a tourist from Colombia who said his cousin had been out with friends in the area Saturday night and had not responded to texts and calls. “Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon.”