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A suspect in the California mass shooting is dead, sheriff says

Flowers are placed near the scene of a deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., on Sunday.
Eric Thayer
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Getty Images
Flowers are placed near the scene of a deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., on Sunday.

Updated January 22, 2023 at 10:30 PM ET

The gunman suspected of killing 10 people and wounding 10 others in a shooting Saturday night in Monterey Park, a city east of Los Angeles, is dead, officials said.

The shooting was reported around 10:22 p.m. local time inside a Chinese-owned ballroom dance studio near a Lunar New Year celebration.

By late morning Sunday, police vehicles had converged around a white van in Torrance, Calif., about 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park. Law enforcement officers were seen breaching the van and removing its contents during the afternoon.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna later confirmed in a Sunday evening news conference that the suspect was found dead inside the van from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Law enforcement vehicles had surrounded the van for over two hours before breaking into it.

Luna named the suspect as Huu Can Tran, a 72-year-old Asian man. Investigators do not know a motive, Luna said. There are no outstanding suspects, said the sheriff.

None of the victims have been identified, as officials work to notify family members. Five of the people killed were women and five were men, Luna said, and were older, "probably in their 50s, 60s and beyond." At least 10 other people who suffered injuries were taken to area hospitals with conditions ranging from stable to critical.

Law enforcement personnel surround a white van. Law enforcement said the shooting suspect may be inside.
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Law enforcement personnel surround a white van where the shooting suspect was found dead.

Police are investigating two incidents

Local police arrived at the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park to find "individuals pouring out of the location," LA County Sheriff's Department Captain Andrew Meyer said in a news conference on Sunday early morning.

Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said officers responded within three minutes of the first 911 call. The suspect was still able to get away.

About 20-30 minutes later, Luna said, the same gunman walked into a second ballroom dance hall, located in nearby Alhambra, with the "intent to kill more people." There, at Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio, two people disarmed him of a "magazine-fed assault-style pistol."

Asked whether that type of gun was legal in California, the sheriff said he believed it was not.

After fleeing the scene in a white van, the suspect's vehicle was spotted hours later by police officers in Torrance. Sheriff Luna said the van's driver pulled over in a parking lot and officers exited their vehicles and approached the van. They heard a single gunshot from inside the vehicle.

The officers retreated and called for SWAT and tactical backup. Two-and-a-half hours later, authorities breached the van and found the suspect dead.

Luna said there were several pieces of evidence in the van that linked the suspect to both crime scenes in Monterey Park and Alhambra. The sheriff said he assumed the license plates on the van were stolen. A small-caliber handgun was also found in the van.

Police gather at the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., over the weekend.
Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Police gather at the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., over the weekend.

Earlier in the day, the sheriff's office released photos of the suspect, showing a man wearing a black leather jacket, glasses and a beanie. He was described as 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds.

Captain Meyer said it was unclear whether the shooting was a targeted hate crime.

The FBI and state authorities are also involved in the investigation.

Over 59,000 people live in Monterey Park, 65 percent of whom identify as Asian, according to the Census Bureau.

The deadly attack occurred at the end of the first day of a two-day street festival to celebrate Lunar New Year. The event, which began on the eve of Chinese New Year, is one of the largest free street fairs in Southern California, typically drawing crowds of over 100,000 visitors and over a hundred food vendors, performances and merchants.

Monterey Park Police said the second day of the festival had been canceled because of the shooting. Still, Sheriff Luna said it was safe for people to attend New Year festivities in the area following the shooting — which Luna said "has no relation to the Chinese New Year event earlier in the day."

Still, several major cities — including New York, Houston and San Francisco, said security would be stepped up during Lunar New Year celebrations as a cautionary measure.

President Biden has been briefed on the shooting. "Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in last night's deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park," he said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the incident "a horrific and heartless act of gun violence," and that he's closely monitoring the situation.

The attack was at least the 33rd mass shooting in the country this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, and the second in California in less than a week.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.