The 72-year-old man suspected of killing 11 people and wounding nine others in a shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, Saturday had previously frequented the establishment, sources told CNN.
The suspect, identified as Huu Can Tran, was pronounced dead following a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday as police swarmed a white van in Torrance, about 30 miles from Monterey Park, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.
The shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio happened around 10:22 p.m. as the city’s large Asian American community was celebrating Lunar New Year weekend.
Authorities said 42 shell casings and a large capacity magazine were found at the scene, Luna said at a Monday news conference. Luna added that one victim was shot outside the dance studio in a vehicle, probably before Tran went inside.
About 17 to 20 minutes after the shooting, an armed man showed up at a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra where authorities say people wrestled a gun away from him – a firearm authorities ultimately used to ID the suspect, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case. The semi-automatic weapon was traced to the suspect, which gave authorities his name and description, the official said.
The mass shooting prompted a manhunt across the region, with a description of a white van seen leaving the Alhambra incident broadcast to area law enforcement agencies. On Sunday morning, officers in Torrance spotted a white van that matched the description.
“When officers exited their patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” Luna said. “Officers retreated and requested several tactical teams to respond.” Then – as armored vehicles blocked the van – a SWAT team approached and found Tran dead inside, Luna said.
As it remains unclear what motivated the shooting and a search warrant has been issued for Tran’s home, the sheriff said it’s too early to say whether the shooting could have been a hate crime and investigators are still working to determine whether any of the victims were known to the gunman.
Here’s what we know about the suspect.
Suspect had once been a regular patron at the dance hall
Tran had once been a regular patron at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, his ex-wife and a longtime acquaintance both told CNN.
Tran’s former wife, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the case, said she met Tran about two decades ago at Star Ballroom, a popular community gathering place where he gave informal lessons. Tran saw her at a dance, introduced himself and offered her free lessons, she said. The two married soon after, she said.
While Tran was never violent to her, she said he could be quick to anger. For example, she said, if she missed a step dancing, he would become upset because he felt it made him look bad. Tran filed for divorce in late 2005, and a judge approved the divorce the following year, Los Angeles court records show.
Tran was an immigrant from China, according to a copy of his marriage license his ex-wife showed to CNN.
It was unclear how frequently Tran visited the dance hall, if at all, in recent years.
Another longtime acquaintance of Tran’s also remembered him as a frequent presence at the dance studio. The friend, who also asked not to be named, was close to Tran in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when he said Tran would make the roughly five-minute drive from his home in San Gabriel to Star Ballroom Dance Studio “almost every night.”
Tran often complained at the time that the instructors at the dance hall didn’t like him and said “evil things about him,” the friend remembered, adding Tran was “hostile to a lot of people there.”
The friend said he hadn’t seen Tran in several years and was “totally shocked” when he heard about the shooting.
“I know lots of people, and if they go to Star studio, they frequent there,” he said, adding he was “worried maybe I know some of” the shooting victims.
Investigators are still looking into Tran’s history, sheriff says
Luna told reporters Sunday that investigators are still looking into Tran’s criminal and mental health history and serving search warrants.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department obtained a search warrant for Tran’s home in a senior community in Hemet, California, according to Hemet police public information officer Alan Reyes.
Records show Tran bought a mobile home in the community, which is in the outlying suburb about 85 miles east of Los Angeles in neighboring Riverside County.
Seven years before buying the Hemet home, Tran in 2013 sold a San Gabriel home, which he had owned for more than two decades, property records show.
Business records also show Tran registered a business called Tran’s Trucking Inc. in California in 2002. But he dissolved the business about two years later, writing in a corporate filing that the company had never acquired any known assets or incurred any known debts or liabilities.
Tran at times had worked as a truck driver, according to his ex-wife.
Tran had a “limited criminal history” and was arrested in 1990 for unlawful possession of a firearm, Luna said.
The weapons authorities found
Investigators recovered a Norinco 7.62 x 25 handgun from inside Tran’s cargo van, Luna said, adding that firearm was registered to the suspect.
The firearm wrestled away from the suspect at a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra was a “9 mm caliber semiautomatic MAC-10 assault weapon,” Luna said.
The gun is designed to take 30-round magazines that allow for rapid fire without having to frequently change magazines, the law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told CNN.
In response to a reporter’s question, Luna said, “I believe the weapon that was recovered at the Alhambra location is not legal to have here in the state of California.”
Following the execution of a search warrant at Tran’s residence, officials announced they found a 308 caliber rifle and numerous electronic devices such as cell phones and computers – “items that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors,” he said.
Also found was an unknown amount of 308 caliber and 9 mm caliber ammunition. The sheriff said there were “hundreds of rounds – we don’t know exactly how many there were – a lot of loose ammunition so eventually we’ll get to exactly how many those were.”
Investigators are still working to confirm “the origins of where the suspect got” all firearms recovered in this case, including the gun used in the shooting, Luna added.
Tran may have sought medical treatment
The suspect may have sought medical treatment shortly before the traffic stop in Torrance, law enforcement sources told CNN they believe. Police got a tip from an area hospital where a man fitting the description of the suspect came into the emergency room, seeking treatment for injuries consistent with having been in a fight.
The person waited for a period and then left the hospital without receiving treatment, the sources said. The hospital notified authorities when staff saw the similarity to the wanted person. A short time later, police in Torrance stopped the van.
Suspected gunman visited police station this month
Earlier this month, Tran visited a police station in Hemet, where he made various allegations before leaving, according to a statement from the Hemet Police Department.
“Tran visited the Hemet Police Department lobby on January 7 and 9, 2023, alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago,” Hemet police said in a statement. “Tran stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned.”
Tran had a residence in Hemet, the statement said. Investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have executed a search warrant there.
The local police department said this is a “highly sensitive, ongoing investigation” and deferred to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for further inquiries.
CNN’s John Miller and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.