Huu Can Tran: What we know about the Monterey Park mass shooting suspect

At least 10 were killed and 10 others injured in shooting on first night of Lunar New Year celebrations

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 23 January 2023 08:38 EST

SWAT team reaches suspect’s white van involved in standoff connected to LA mass shooting

The suspect accused of killing 10 people in a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California was found dead in a van from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as law enforcement closed in on him, authorities said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna on Sunday identified the man as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said no other suspects were at large. The motive for the attack remains unknown.

The sheriff said the suspect was carrying what he described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine. A second handgun was discovered inside the van where Tran was found dead. Earlier, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released photos of the suspect.

Tran is accused of opening fire inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Saturday night, killing 10 and wounding another 10.

Minutes later, he allegedly entered a second club – the Lai Lai club in the neighbouring city of Alhambra – but was disarmed by bystanders before anyone could get hurt. The suspect then fled the scene.

On Sunday, investigators tracked Tran down to a parking lot in Torrance where police said he shot himself inside a white van during a standoff.

Here’s what we know so far about the suspect:

Who is Huu Can Tran?

Tran was identified as the suspect behind the Monterey Park shooting by Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.

Authorities found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the white van he used to flee in after people reportedly thwarted the suspect’s attempt at a second shooting.

The suspect’s van was found about 22 miles away in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans.

A motive behind the attack is still not clear.

However, it has emerged that Tran frequently visited the Star Ballroom Dance Studio and met his ex-wife there two decades ago.

Tran used to give informal lessons at the dance studio, his ex-wife, who did not want to be identified, told CNN.

The two met for the first time at the popular community centre two decades ago and got married. While she said the 72-year-old was never violent to her, she added that he could be quick to anger.

The couple got divorced in 2005.

Huu Can Tran was identified as the suspect behind the Monterey Park shooting

Another long-time acquaintance was quoted by CNN saying that the gunman used to be a frequent presence at the dance studio. It, however, isn’t clear when he last visited the club.

One friend, who knew Tran in the late 2000s and early 2010s when they both attended the studio, said that Tran was “hostile to a lot of people” at the club.

The friend, who did not want to be named, told CNN that the suspect often complained to him that he thought the dance instructors didn’t like him and said “evil things about him”.

At the time, Tran lived around a five-minute drive from the club and would visit it almost every night, he said.

The two friends hadn’t seen each other in years before Saturday’s shooting, he said.

Now, he said he is “totally shocked” to learn that he was allegedly responsible for the mass shooting as he voiced fears that some of his friends may be among the victims.

“I know lots of people, and if they go to Star studio, they frequent there,” he said.

Now, investigators are looking into Tran’s criminal and mental health history for clues as to what led to Saturday’s massacre.

California Representative Judy Chu said residents were “no longer in danger”.

“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” she said.

“You are no longer in danger.”

“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?”

What we know about the shooting

On Saturday night, approximately seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles, visitors gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The two-day festival draws tens of thousands, making it one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the region, according to the paper.

Around 10.22pm, a man entered the dance club and began shooting. Police do not know if he was targeting individuals, firing indiscriminately, or both.

Seung Won Choi, the owner a seafood restaurant across the street from the ballroom, told the Los Angeles Times that party attendees fled the building and ran into his business, warning him to close and lock his doors.

Police arrived at the scene and found that the party-goers were already fighting to escape the building.

“When officers arrived on scene, they observed numerous individuals, patrons… pouring out of the location, screaming,” officials told reporters Sunday. “The officers made entry to the location and located additional victims.”

According to Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese, officers arrived at the scene within three minutes of receiving a distress call.

Police on the scene of the mass shooting in Monterey Park

They found extensive carnage inside and people trying to flee through all the doors.

Ten people were killed in the attack while another 10 were also wounded but survived and were taken to hospital for treatment.

The gunman then allegedly travelled to the Lai Lai Ballroom where he was disarmed by a heroic worker.

Surveillance footage captured the terrifying moment 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, a 26-year-old coder whose family runs the Lai Lai club, bravely wrestled the gun away from Tran.

Mr Tsay told the New York Times that he was in the office off the lobby watching the ballroom when he heard the front doors swing close and a noise that sounded like metal hitting metal.

At that moment, he said he turned around to see the suspect pointing a gun at him.

Mr Tsay described the suspect as “menacing” saying: “He was looking at me and looking around, not hiding that he was trying to do harm.” The two men got into a struggle before the 26-year-old managed to disarm the gunman.

Tran fled the scene.

Map showing locations of Star Dance Studio, where gunman Huu Can Tran shot dead 10 people; the Lai Lai Ballroom, where he was disarmed by members of the public; and Torrance, where his van was stopped by police

What we know about the standoff

A huge manhunt was launched to track down the suspect, culminating around 12 hours later with a police standoff in Torrance, about 30 miles from Monterey Park.

Witnesses at the Alhambra incident had reported seeing a white van at the scene and officers spotted Tran driving the van around Torrance on Sunday morning.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference on Sunday that, as police closed in, Tran drove into a parking lot and shot himself dead.

“When officers exited their patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” the sheriff said.

Two SWAT vehicles are seen confronting a white van potentially linked to the Monterey Park shooting

SWAT teams surrounded the vehicle before approaching the van and finding Tran dead inside from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said.

Evidence found inside the vehicle – including a handgun – allegedly ties the 72-year-old to the shooting.

Authorities believe Tran acted alone and are not seeking anyone else in connection to the mass shooting.

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