Monterey Park left 'looking for answers' as police probe mass shooting

Authorities were hunting for a motive on Monday after the deadly shooting at a dance hall in Southern California that left 10 people dead, at least 10 others injured and residents of Monterey Park shaken.

Investigators were probing the background of suspect Huu Can Tran 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 on Sunday, calling the deadly shooting a “horrible tragedy.”

“We understand our community is looking for answers,” Lo said as he promised to update residents as the investigation continues.

California police hunting the gunman who killed 10 people at a dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations broke into a van after a lengthy standoff Sunday, where images showed a body slumped in the driver's seat. The hunt began 12 hours earlier after a man -- described by police as Asian -- began firing at a club in Monterey Park, a city in Los Angeles County with a large Asian community.
Officers peer into the window of a van believed to have a body in the driver’s seat in Torrance, Calif.,, on Sunday. Robyn Beck / AFP – Getty Images

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 dancehall 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.

As authorities learn more about the suspect, 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 9-1-1 for emergency related calls,” he said.

Image: Ten Killed In Mass Shooting At Lunar New Year Festival In California
Investigators near the scene of the shooting in Monterey Park.Eric Thayer / Getty Images

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.”

Concerned friends and family gathered at the center through much of Sunday, anxiously 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 told NBC News of a friend she last heard from earlier in the weekend.

Juan Pablo Pinzon, a tourist from Colombia, said his cousin had been out with friends in the area Saturday night and had not responded to texts and calls since.

“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 since. “Hopefully, we’ll hear something soon.”

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