Hemet Man’s Motive Behind Mass Shooting Blurs; Pechanga Helps Victims
TEMECULA, CA — The Pechanga Band of Indians is mourning the senseless killings of 11 people over the weekend at a Monterey Park dance studio, and on Thursday the tribe said it contributed $100,000 to a fund designed for victims’ families.
The Monterey Park Lunar New Year Victims Fund received the donation, sending the total received in the GoFundMe account to more than $880,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
“The city and community of Monterey Park opened its arms to Pechanga more than a decade ago to partake and contribute to the excitement of its Lunar New Year Festival. As we mourn the victims of Saturday night’s tragedy, Pechanga’s commitment to the community remains unwavering. A contribution of $100,000 has been made to the victims’ fund in solidarity with their families and community,” a news release from the tribe read.
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Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro added, “The Monterey Park community welcomed Pechanga into their festivities many years ago. Pechanga has made great friends and acquaintances through Monterey Park’s Lunar New Year Festival. Like so many throughout California, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy and extend our deepest condolences and support for the victims.”
The mystery of what prompted the weekend shootings by a Hemet man at the dance studio was even murkier Thursday, with Sheriff Robert Luna saying there is no known connection between the gunman and any of the victims, seemingly dispelling suggestions that jealousy or a personal beef led to the rampage.
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Luna, in a hastily called Wednesday night news conference, also repeatedly pleaded for anyone who believes they have information about the gunman, his background or his motivations to come forward and speak to investigators.
Luna acknowledged the array of rumors and media reports suggesting possible motivations that may have led 72-year-old Huu Can Tran to carry out the mass shooting around 10:20 p.m. Saturday at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio at 122 W. Garvey Ave., killing 11 people and injuring nine others. But the sheriff said thus far, investigators have still not been able to establish a motive.
He said Tran was unmarried and was not romantically tied to any of the victims. Luna also said Tran had not been to the dance studio for at least five years.
Tran’s ex-wife told CNN earlier this week that he used to be a regular at the dance facility, saying that’s where she originally met him.
Luna asked anyone with information about the shooting or the suspect to contact investigators at 323-890-5500.
On Wednesday, Monterey Park police discovered a motorcycle registered to Tran parked in the 200 block of South Garfield Avenue, about a block way from the dance studio. Luna said the motorcycle was apparently parked there by Tran sometime Saturday before the shooting, possibly as an alternate getaway vehicle.
Luna for the first time shared photos of the three weapons linked to the gunman.
The weapon used in the massacre was a Cobray model CM11-9, also known as a Mac-10, Luna said. The semiautomatic weapon, which was not registered in the state, was purchased by Tran in 1999 in Monterey Park. Luna said the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was working to trace the weapon and its purchase. Luna said previously that Tran had been arrested in 1990 for unlawful possession of a firearm.
Tran legally owned two other weapons, Luna said. One was a Norinco 7.62x25mm pistol, with which Tran killed himself inside a van that was pulled over by Torrance police around midday Sunday. The other weapon was a Savage Arms .308-caliber bolt-action rifle that was seized during a search of the suspect’s Hemet home Sunday night, Luna said.
While Luna said investigators have not established any link between Tran and the victims, the sheriff’s department declined to say how many other people were inside the dance studio when the shooting occurred and escaped injury. It was unclear if investigators had identified and spoken to all of those witnesses.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Monterey Park Wednesday to meet with the families of the victims killed inside the dance studio after a day of celebration in Monterey Park for the Lunar New Year, while also calling on Congress to enact “reasonable” gun-control measures.
Speaking to reporters outside the dance studio, Harris decried a spate of multiple-victim shootings in the nation since the beginning of the year and said while it’s important to support victims, “we must also require that leaders in our nation who have the ability and the power and the responsibility to do something, that they act.”
“California has been courageous as a leader on the issue of smart gun- safety laws, but we also need Congress to act,” she said, adding that the nation needs a “uniform approach” that protects 2nd Amendment rights but includes “reasonable” gun laws.
Harris then traveled to a victim-support facility that has been established at the Langley Senior Center in Monterey Park, spending more than two hours meeting with families of six of the victims and first responders, an aide said.
A vigil — the third in three nights in the city — was also held Wednesday night outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. The vigil was organized by the group Compassion in SGV, and followed vigils on Monday and Tuesday nights outside Monterey Park City Hall.
Ten people died at the scene of the dance studio shooting. An 11th victim later died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The coroner’s office on Tuesday identified all of the victims as:
- Mymy Nhan, 65;
- Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68;
- Lilan Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57;
- Ming Wei Ma, 72;
- Muoi Dai Ung, 67;
- Hongying Jian, 62;
- Yu-Lun Kao, 72;
- Chia Ling Yau, 76;
- Wen-Tau Yu, 64;
- and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70.
Ming Ma was a popular instructor and owner at the dance studio, friends said.
Luna said earlier investigators recovered 42 shell casings at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, indicating the number of shots that were fired at the scene of the massacre. A large-capacity magazine was also recovered, an indication the gunman reloaded the weapon during the shooting.
Luna confirmed that one of the victims — possibly Nhan — was shot outside the dance studio and was found inside a vehicle. Luna said that person was likely shot before the suspect went into the building.
About 17 minutes after the Monterey Park attack, Tran entered the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in the 100 block of South Garfield Avenue in neighboring Alhambra. Luna speculated that Tran was going to try to kill more people there, but 26-year-old employee Brandon Tsay, whose family runs the studio, confronted Tran and wrestled away his gun — the Mac-10 — prompting him to leave.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the shooting, Torrance police located a white van matching the suspect’s vehicle near Sepulveda and Hawthorne boulevards and attempted a traffic stop. The driver entered the parking lot of a strip mall around the corner from Del Amo Fashion Center. When officers approached, they heard a single gunshot fired from within the vehicle.
Authorities made entry into the van shortly before 1 p.m. and found Tran slumped in the driver’s seat, dead from a gunshot wound. On Monday, Luna said a handgun was recovered inside the van, along with “clothing that the suspect wore during the commission” of the Monterey Park shooting.
Investigators searched Tran’s Hemet home in Riverside County Sunday night. Luna said among the items found at the home were the .308-caliber rifle, hundreds of rounds of .308-caliber and 9mm ammunition and “items that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors,” or silencers.
Police in Hemet said Monday Tran went to the Hemet Police Department twice in early January “alleging past fraud, theft, and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago. Tran stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned.”
Related: Hemet Man Suspected In Mass Shooting Feared He Was Poisoned By Family
Luna said it remains unknown if those allegations had any connection to the shooting.
Saturday’s rampage was the deadliest shooting in Los Angeles County history and the deadliest in the United States since the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, in May that left 22 dead, including the perpetrator.
Anyone with further information about the shooting was asked to call sheriff’s homicide detectives at 323-890-5500 or leave anonymous tips on the Crime Stoppers line at 800-222-8477.
—City News Service contributed to this report.
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