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Mass shooter kills ten, injures more in Monterey Park dance studio

By Sarah May
|
January 23, 2023

In a tragic story out of California this weekend, 10 people were killed and another 10 wounded in a mass shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in the Los Angeles County enclave of Monterey Park, as CBS News reports.

The attack occurred during what was reportedly a Lunar New Year's Eve party at the facility, long known as a popular social hub for Chinese American immigrants, as the Los Angeles Times noted.

Attack leaves 10 dead

According to the outlet, it was around 10:22 p.m. on Saturday when the Monterey Park Police Department responded to an emergency call from the studio, encountering fleeing patrons as well as numerous victims upon officers' arrival.

Upon entering the studio itself, police discovered multiple gunshot victims, 10 of whom were pronounced dead on the scene.

As CBS News noted separately, one witness to the violent scene described the chaos and terror of the events, explaining, “I just saw him, to shoot, to hold the gun, so I run...and I hide myself.”

Suggesting that the gunman was looking specifically for his spouse among the partygoers, the witness added, “He found his wife there. He started shooting everybody...when they dance.”

Underscoring the harrowing scene that unfolded, the witness recalled that the gunman opened fire on the assembled attendees without saying a word, even walking around the room and shooting certain victims on more than one occasion.

Gunman named

According to the Mail, the man responsible for the deadly rampage has since been identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, who was found dead inside a van of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after unsuccessfully attempting an attack at a second dance studio.

Though police have not yet declared a motive in the attack, a source within law enforcement reportedly indicated that there is “evidence this was domestic violence,” the Mail added.

Monterey Park community leader and chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, Chester Chong, opined that Tran may have been gripped by jealousy over the fact that his former wife was invited to the studio's party, while he was not, despite having taught dance lessons there himself in the past.

“This hate is because of wife and husband. I believe because of that there was the killing of innocent people,” Chong said.

Others who had been previously acquainted with Tran recalled that he had been “hostile to a lot of people” at the dance studio and was under the impression that those who frequented the facility said “evil things about him.”

Hero thwarts additional deaths

As tragic as the Star Ballroom Dance Studio were, it has since emerged that Tran's deadly spree could have been much worse.

Robert Luna, Los Angeles County Sheriff said on Sunday that Tran “intended to kill more people,” and that the quick thinking of patrons at the second dance studio he visited was critical to averting additional killings.

As the Mail reported separately, Brandon Tsay was present at his family's establishment, the Lai Lai Ballroom, in the moments after Tran's initial attack, when the gunman burst into that facility armed with a semi-automatic pistol.

During an interview with Good Morning America, Tsay explained how he realized he needed to act quickly once he saw Tran carrying his weapon, saying, “I turned around and saw there was an Asian man holding a gun. My first thought was, I was going to die here. This is it,” but that “primal instinct” took over and caused him to wrestle the firearm from the assailant.

Tsay's father, Tom, lauded those efforts, stating, “It was just my son. He could have died. He's lucky, someone was watching over him.”

Despite anecdotal stories of Tran having exhibited a “hostile” attitude toward those he encountered in his work as a dance instructor and reports of a rocky relationship with his ex-wife, residents of the senior community in which he lived expressed shock at the idea that he was responsible for the weekend's events. “He'd stop to pet your dog, and everybody around here just thought he was just some quiet little guy,” said neighbor, Pat Roth. “The people I've talked to are just stunned that he was involved in this.”