MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Investigators searching for a motive Monday in the worst mass shooting in Los Angeles County history said the gunman was previously arrested for illegally owning a firearm, had a rifle at home, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and appeared to be manufacturing gun silencers.
Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said investigators had not yet established why 72-year-old Huu Can Tran gunned down patrons Saturday night at a ballroom dance hall he was said to frequent in Monterey Park, where tens of thousands attended Lunar New Year festivities earlier that evening.
“What drove a mad man to do this? We don’t know, but we intend to find out,” Luna said.
Tran fired 42 rounds at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, killing 11 people and wounding nine. He then drove to another nearby dance hall where Brandon Tsay, who works at the establishment started by his grandparents, wrestled a modified 9 mm submachine gun-style semi-automatic weapon away from him, Luna said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who visited Tsay and his family on Monday, was among those hailing him as a hero. The governor said hero can be an overused term that often loses its gravity, but he directed anyone doubting Tsay’s courage to surveillance footage of him fighting with Tran.
“This remarkable young man who without any hesitation — though with moments of fear — took it upon himself to save countless lives,” Newsom said. “Who knows how many lives he saved.”
Tran fatally shot himself Sunday as officers surrounded the van he was inside. A handgun was recovered from the van, which matched descriptions of the vehicle he used to get away from the dance studio.
Sheriff’s deputies from Los Angeles County searched Tran’s home in a gated senior community in the town of Hemet, a little over an hour’s drive from the site of the massacre, Hemet police spokesperson Alan Reyes told The Associated Press.
Luna said his officers found a .308-caliber rifle, an unknown amount of bullets and evidence he was making homemade firearm suppressors that muffle the sound of the weapons.
Tran had visited Hemet police twice this month to report he was the victim of fraud, theft and poisoning by family members a decade or two ago in the LA area, Reyes said. Tran said he would return to the station with documentation but never did.
The mayor of Monterey Park said Tran may have been a regular at the first dance hall that he targeted, and his ex-wife told CNN she had met him there and he offered her free lessons.
The death toll rose to 11 Monday after health officials announced that one of the 10 people wounded had died, the LA County Department of Health Services said.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said it was the worst mass shooting in the county’s history.
All except one of the dead were 60 or older, according to information released Monday by the Los Angeles coroner’s office providing the first identifications.
My Nhan, 65, Lilian Li, 63, and Xiujuan Yu, 57, were the three women named. Two other women were in their 60s, and one was in her 70s. Valentino Alvero, 68, was the only man identified. Three men in their 70s and one in his 60s were also killed.
Nhan’s family said in a statement that she was a loving person whose kindness was contagious, and danced frequently at the ballroom.
“It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,” the family said. “We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly.”