The gunman who shot dead 10 people during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey, California didn't have access to an assault rifle and used only a handgun to kill his victims before turning the gun on himself after a standoff with police. The shooter was identified as Huu Can Tran, a 72-year-old man of Asian origin, police officials announced.
Police also said that all the 10 dead were Asian although they are yet to identify them. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said that Tran's motive is still unclear. However, it was also revealed that Tran intended to kill more people as he went to the Alhambra location after he conducted the shooting and was disarmed by two community members.
Lone Wolf on a Killing Spree
Police said that the attack could have been deadlier had two community members not disarmed Huu Can Tran. Luna said Tran was carrying what was described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine well as a second weapon that was recovered in the van where his body was found.
Although the motive is still unclear, Tran intended to kill more. "He intended to kill more people," Luna said in a news conference on Sunday night. "They saved lives," he said of the patrons. "This could've been much worse."
Ten people were shot and killed at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, where sources told CNN Tran used to be a "regular patron." Although the victims' exact ages were not disclosed, Luna said they all seemed to be older than 50.
He noted that seven of the injured were still being treated there.
Luna described what happened on Sunday when law enforcement personnel stormed and entered the vehicle after surrounding it for several hours. When they got close to the car after hearing a shot, they saw Tran's body slouched over the wheel.
A police standoff came after 10 people, believed to be Asians, were shot and killed at a ballroom dancing studio late on Saturday during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in the primarily Asian American neighborhood of Monterey Park.
Five women and five men were killed in the incident, according to Luna, and 10 more were injured. The shooter then entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in adjacent Alhambra 20 to 30 minutes later. However, the customers wrestled the weapon from him, and he fled the scene.
"Remember, the suspect went to the Alhambra location after he conducted the shooting and he was disarmed by two community members who I consider to be heroes," Luna said.
"They saved lives," he added.
"This could've been much worse. The weapon that we recovered at that second scene I am describing as a magazine-fed semiautomatic assault pistol. Not an assault rifle, but an assault pistol that had an extended large capacity magazine attached to it."
Authorities then started searching for the white van after witnesses claimed to have seen the suspect driving away from Alhambra in it.
The Final Hour
Tran was previously profiled on a wanted poster by Luna's office, which showed him with spectacles, a leather jacket, a dark winter beanie with a white design, and other clothing. Luna also didn't rule out the possibility of a second suspect but provided no evidence there might be one.
Tran was seen at a hospital requesting medical attention shortly before the standoff, according to law enforcement sources. Tran went to the ER for treatment of wounds that were consistent with having been involved in a fight. He waited a short while before departing without receiving care.
The hospital alerted the authorities when the patient fit the suspect's description posted on the sheriff's department's Twitter page,
Around 10:20 am, police in Torrance, California, spotted a white van that matched the suspect vehicle description. They then followed the van into a parking lot of a mall and stopped the vehicle which resulted in a standoff. A few minutes later, a single gunshot could be heard coming from inside the van.
The local police officers dispersed and requested the assistance of tactical squads. Armored tanks and a bomb squad surrounded the van before noon local time, sparking a confrontation that lasted for more than an hour.
A SWAT squad unlocked the car's passenger door and subsequently its side doors just before noon local time. Photos showed a man slumped over in the driver's seat, whom investigators confirmed was the shooting suspect, according to Luna.
Asian American communities in the Los Angeles area experienced a wave of fear following the shooting and manhunt, which also put a shadow over Lunar New Year celebrations across the nation. Other cities sent more police to keep an eye on the festivities.