Possible mass shooting suspect found dead in pickup truck

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) — A gunman killed 10 people in a ballroom dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations and then likely tried but failed to attack a second ballroom, they said. authorities on Sunday. An urgent search was underway in the Los Angeles area to find the suspect.

The suspected shooter was found dead inside a van at a local shopping center, according to reports.

what you need to know

  • Authorities say they are looking into the possibility that a male suspect believed to have killed 10 people may have entered a second nearby dance hall about 30 minutes later, where an attack was foiled.
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the gun the man was carrying was seized by someone at the Alhambra studio and turned over to police.
  • Luna also said Sunday that the suspect in the shooting that left 10 dead and 10 wounded at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio is still at large.
  • He described the suspect as an Asian male.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park left five women and five men dead and injured 10 other people. Then, 20 to 30 minutes later, a gunman entered the Lai Lai dance hall in the nearby Alhambra.

Authorities believe the two events are connected. They offered no details on a possible motive.

The suspect in both cases was described as an Asian male. He entered the Alhambra club with a gun and people took the gun from him before he fled, Luna said.

At noon, police in tactical vehicles and bomb trucks surrounded a white van in a parking lot. Hours earlier, Luna said authorities were looking for a white van after witnesses reported seeing the suspect fleeing the Alhambra in the vehicle.

“We believe there is a person inside that vehicle. We don’t know his condition, but we’re going to handle that as safely as possible and try to identify that person. Could you be our suspect? Possibly,” Luna said.

In response to a question, Luna said the person holed up in the van may be dead.

SWAT team members entered the van a short time later and checked its contents before driving away. It was not clear what they found.

Authorities said Sunday they know the suspect’s name but declined to release it because it could complicate their ability to apprehend him. But they posted a photo showing an Asian man wearing glasses and a winter hat. The image was taken from the attempted shooting at the Alhambra.

The sheriff declined to say what type of weapon was recovered at Alhambra. He said investigators believe the weapon used at Monterey Park was not an assault rifle.

The shooting and manhunt sent a wave of fear through Asian-American communities in the Los Angeles area and cast a shadow over Lunar New Year festivities across the country. Other cities sent additional officers to monitor the celebrations.

The massacre was the fifth mass murder in the nation this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Monterey Park is a city of approximately 60,000 in far east Los Angeles and is comprised primarily of first-generation Asian immigrants from China or Asian-Americans. The shooting occurred in the heart of its downtown area, where red lanterns decorated the streets for Lunar New Year festivities. A police car was parked near a large banner proclaiming “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”

The celebration at Monterey Park is one of the largest in California, drawing tens of thousands throughout the day.

Two days of festivities were planned, which have been attended by up to 100,000 people in recent years. But officials canceled Sunday’s events after the shooting.

Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he went for a walk early in the morning and learned that the noises he heard at night were gunshots.

“I thought maybe it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with Lunar New Year,” she said. “And we don’t even have a lot of fireworks here. It is rare to see this. It’s really safe here. We are right in the middle of the city, but it is very safe.”

Wynn Liaw, 57, who lives about two blocks from the Monterey Park studio, said she was shocked that such a crime would happen, especially during New Year’s celebrations.

“The Chinese consider Chinese New Year very, very special,” a time when “you don’t do anything unlucky all year long.”

He took a photo of the activity outside the studio to send to family and friends in China “to let them know how crazy America is getting with all these mass shootings, even in the New Year.”

An Associated Press/USA Today database of mass murders in the US shows that 2022 was one of the worst years in the nation in terms of mass murders, with 42 such attacks, the second most high since the tracker’s creation in 2006. The database defines a mass murder as four people killed not including the perpetrator.

The latest violence comes two months after five people were killed at a Colorado Springs nightclub.

President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland were briefed on the situation, aides said.

The shooting occurred at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a few blocks from City Hall on Monterey Park’s main drag, Garvey Avenue, which is dotted with small-business shopping malls whose signs are in English and Chinese. Both Cantonese and Mandarin are widely spoken, Chinese holidays are celebrated, and Chinese movies are regularly shown in the city.

The business offered dance classes from tango to rumba to fox trot, and rented out its space for events. On Saturday, her website said that she was hosting an event called “Star Night” from 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.