A report from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Medical Examiner’s Office said all 11 victims of the mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, Calif., were between the ages of 57 and 76.
The victims, five men and six women, were publicly identified by the coroner’s office on Tuesday. The female victim was identified as Xiujuan Yu, 57. Hongying Jian, 62; Lilian Li, 63; Mymy Nhan, 65; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70. The male victims were identified as Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Ming Wei Ma, 72; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; and Chia Ling Yau, 76.
As investigators work to determine a motive, the community faces a long road to recovery, the city’s mayor said.
“People are just in disbelief, shocked and very numb,” Mayor Henry Lo told CNN Monday night.
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Saturday night’s shooting occurred as the city’s large Asian community marked the Lunar New Year, turning one of the calendar’s most auspicious days into tragedy.
“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety out there. People fear a situation like this, where our joyous Lunar New Year celebration has been turned completely upside down by tragedy and fear,” Monterey Park spokeswoman Judy Chu said Monday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom met with shooting victims Monday as he was pulled away to address another deadly mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, the second mass shooting in the state in three days. “Tragedy after tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
Authorities on Monday revealed new details during a search of the home of Monterey Park shooting suspect Huu Can Tran, 72, in Hemet, about 80 miles east of Monterey Park.
Detectives executed a search warrant and found “hundreds of rounds of ammunition,” a .308-caliber rifle, various electronic devices and evidence that led officers to believe he was “making homemade firearm suppressors,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.
Still, it remains unclear what led to Saturday night’s attack at the Star Ballroom dance studio and later at the Lai Lai ballroom as investigators probe a large cache of ammunition discovered.
“Did he plan this? Was it the day? Was it a week ago?” Luna said at a news conference Monday. “We don’t know. But we’re going to find out.”
Three people who knew Tran, including his ex-wife, told CNN that he was once a familiar face at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where he taught informal dance lessons. But it’s unclear how often he visited in recent years, or at all, and authorities are still investigating whether he knew any of the victims.
“It definitely looks like it was targeted,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told CNN. “He obviously knew where he was going and was familiar with both places.
Mayor Lo said Tuesday he hopes the dance hall can once again become a safe place for the community.
“It was a place where people could socialize, learn to dance,” he said. “We want to make sure that this dance hall continues to thrive and that people feel safe to socialize.”
The shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio happened on Saturday around 10:22 p.m. According to Sheriff Luna, the gunman fired 42 rounds from a semi-automatic weapon into the dance hall before leaving the scene.
At least one person was shot in a vehicle outside the dance studio, and police believe Tran shot that person first before he entered the dance studio and opened fire on the crowd of civilians, the sheriff said.
Monterey Park officers were at the studio within three to four minutes and arrived at the scene of “carnage” as people lay injured and others streaming from the scene, said Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, the suspect — still armed — showed up at a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra. There, a 26-year-old civilian accosted him and took his gun away, saving many other lives, he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
“I just had this rush of thoughts and adrenaline. I could conclude that something had to be done, a gun had to be taken. I needed to save myself and the people,” Tsay said.
The suspect fled and Tsay called police to the scene, where investigators found a firearm belonging to Tran, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the case. The weapon was described as a 9mm semi-automatic MAC-10 pistol with an extended high-capacity magazine, according to Luna, who added that the assault weapon had been modified.
California has banned high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Less than a day later, Tran was found dead in a white van about 30 miles away in Torrance after a SWAT team surrounded the vehicle. The sheriff said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Investigators also found a 7.62×25 Norinco handgun registered to the suspect in the van, Luna said.
Ballistic and forensic comparisons will need to be made on all items recovered from the alleged shooter’s home as authorities also look into Tran’s story.
So far, the sheriff said the suspect had a “limited criminal history,” noting that in 1990 was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm.
When they met the suspect, they said he had a hot and difficult temper.
Ilie Bardahan, a dancer at the Alhambra’s Lai Lai Ballroom, said Tran had a “very bad temper,” adding that “people say he was a little bit psychotic in a way.”
“Very sharp movement, a little bit of a push, not being happy with some, I don’t know, any improvements by the students,” Bardahan said.
Adam Hood said he rented an apartment from Tran and knew him for 20 years, but they fell out and hadn’t seen each other in 8 or 9 years. He said Tran’s name was “Andy.”
“His personality can be described in two words: mistrust – he didn’t trust anyone – and hatred.” He could hate people to death. He pushed it to the extreme,” Hood said. “(He hated) what he thought was not pleasing to him. Both (dance studios) had other dance instructors that he didn’t like.
Hood added that Tran thought “the instructors were not nice to him, he thought they were talking bad about him. It was unreasonable. He was always unhappy with the people in the studios, always complaining about the studio bosses and other instructors, not the students. It was all in his head.”
Reporter Judy Chu said the gunman who killed 11 people on Saturday night “took them from their families on what should have been a joyous night, during the lunar calendar year.”
Two Taiwanese-Americans were also among the victims, according to Taiwan’s de facto diplomatic representative in Los Angeles, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
At least one of the dead was a Chinese national, and one of the dead, Alvero, was a US citizen of Filipino descent, according to the countries’ consulates in Los Angeles.
Alvero the son told his father on CNN expected to retire in about a year and return to the Philippines, and he said his father spent his free time at a dance studio.
“He used to dance around the house,” Val Anthony Alvero said of his father. “He liked that sort of thing.”
Nhan, known as “Mymy,” loved to dance and had spent many years at the dance studio where she was killed, her family said in a statement.
Nhan’s dance instructor, Maksym Kapitanchuk, told CNN she was happy to be around.
“She’s always smiling,” Kapitanchuk said. “I don’t even think I’ve ever seen her without a smile – even through her mask I can see her smiling eyes.” She was the delight of the class, any party, any class.
At Monday’s vigil, leaders described the shock and loss the Monterey Park community has experienced.
“It hit too close to home,” said Chun-Yen Chen, executive director of the Asia Pacific Community Foundation.
On Saturday, community members celebrated the Lunar New Year in the ballroom together with dancing grandparents. “Now some of them are gone,” she said.
Many leaders praised the community for coming together after the tragedy.
“We will not let this killer defeat us,” former Assemblyman Mike Eng said at the vigil. “We will move forward with more enthusiasm and love, because the only thing that defeats hate is love.”