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Police seek why 72-year-old shot up LA dance hall

by The Associated Press | January 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
This combination image created using photos provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shows a male suspect allegedly involved in a shooting on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. Authorities have identified the suspect as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and say that Tran was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the van he used to flee after people thwarted his attempt at a second shooting. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department via AP)

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) -- The search for the motive behind the shooting massacre at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance hall led police to a mobile home community as they probed the past of the 72-year-old suspect Monday and his relationship to the club.

Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 11 after health officials announced one of the 10 people who were wounded had died.

The suspect, Huu Can Tran, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday, had visited police in his town of Hemet twice this month to allege he was the victim of fraud, theft and poisoning by family members between 10 and 20 years ago in the LA area, spokesman Alan Reyes told The Associated Press. Tran said he would return to the station with documentation but never did.

Tran was found dead in the van that he used to flee after attempting to attack a second dance hall, authorities said. The mayor of Monterey Park said Tran may have frequented the first dance hall that he targeted, and his ex-wife told CNN she had met him there and he offered her free lessons.

All but one of the victims were 60 or older, according to information released Monday by the Los Angeles coroner's office providing the first identifications.

My Nhan, 65, and Lilian Li, 63, were the first two women named. Two other women were in their 60s, and one was in her 50s. Three men were in their 70s, and two in their 60s were also killed.

Officials did not disclose an age for the 11th fatality, which was announced by the LA County Department of Health Services.

Authorities have shared little about Tran.

Los Angeles Superior Court records show Tran was married in 2001 and divorced five years later, citing irreconcilable differences. The couple did not have children, said they had no community property and neither side had to pay alimony.

In the uncontested case, Tran noted in a filing he could not get away from work to attend any court hearings, though he did not disclose where he worked or what he did.

His ex-wife told CNN they married soon after they met. While she is named in court papers, she asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

She said he would become upset if she missed a step dancing, but was never violent with her.

Tran eventually moved from the San Gabriel Valley, a melting pot for Asian immigrants, and settled in a mobile home community for those 55 and up in Hemet, 75 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside County. Police searched his home there Sunday night.

Hemet police had no records of any incidents involving Tran in the community or calls for service at his home, Reyes said.

The shootings during Lunar New Year celebrations sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.

The massacre was the nation's fifth mass killing this month, and it struck one of California's largest celebrations of a holiday observed in many Asian cultures, dealing another blow to a community that has been the target of high-profile violence in recent years.

It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Law enforcement officials said the rampage could have been even deadlier. A man whose family runs the second dance hall confronted the assailant in the lobby and wrested the gun from him, The New York Times reported.

"We do understand that he may have had a history of visiting this dance hall and perhaps the motivation has to do with some personal relationships. But that's something that I think investigators are still uncovering and investigating," said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Public records show Tran once had addresses in the city and neighboring ones.

photo A gunman opened fire at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance studio following a Lunar New Year celebration.
photo Members of a SWAT team enter a van and look through its contents in Torrance Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. An hours-long manhunt led police to surround and enter the van. Authorities say the suspect in a California dance club shooting that left multiple people dead, shot and killed himself. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
photo This image taken with a drone shows Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A gunman killed multiple people at the ballroom dance studio late Saturday amid Lunar New Years celebrations in the predominantly Asian American community of Monterey Park. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
photo An investigator carries markers outside Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A mass shooting took place at the dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect in the fifth mass killing in the U.S. this month. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
photo Investigators are seen outside Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A mass shooting took place at the dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
photo An investigator carries markers outside Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A mass shooting took place at the dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
photo A police officer ties tape around a light pole in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A mass shooting took place at a dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
photo Law enforcement personnel gather outside a ballroom dance club in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. A mass shooting took place at the dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Print Headline: Police seek why 72-year-old shot up LA dance hall

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