A gunman who shot dead 10 people during a Lunar New Year celebration in the United States has been found dead in the van he used to flee, according to police.
Officers in the state of California found the man on Sunday after surrounding the vehicle in the town of Torrance, which lies southwest of Monterey Park where the killings took place.
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Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna identified the suspect as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said he shot himself as police approached the van. Luna told reporters that no other suspects were at large and that the motive remained unclear for the attack, which wounded 10 more.
The mass shooting took place late on Saturday at a ballroom dance club on Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, a majority Asian American city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. Police said people were “pouring out of the location screaming” when officers arrived at the venue at about 10:30pm local time (06:30 GMT Sunday).
In a news conference hours after the attack, Luna said five men and five women died at the scene. The wounded were in conditions “ranging from stable to critical”, he said. Their identities have not been made public.
Video taken by local news outlets after the shooting showed wounded people, many of them appearing to be middle-aged, being loaded into ambulances on stretchers.
The sheriff’s department released images of the suspect apparently taken from surveillance camera footage showing him wearing spectacles, dressed in a dark jacket and a dark beanie hat with white stripe.
“Monterey Park should have had a night of joyful celebration of the Lunar New Year. Instead, they were the victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said.
Luna later confirmed that Tran was involved in another incident at a dance venue in the neighbouring city of Alhambra about 20 minutes after the Saturday night shooting in Monterey Park. At the second venue, witnesses said Tran walked in holding a gun that patrons were able to grab. No one was shot and Tran fled, Luna said.
Tran and his van were found after a day-long manhunt in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans, about 22 miles (34.5 kilometers) from Alhambra.
As a result of the shooting, the police said Lunar New Year festivities in Monterey Park for Sunday had been cancelled.
Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds, reporting from Monterey Park, said details about the assailant were still unclear.
“A lot of questions remain unanswered. Especially his motive,” Reynolds said.
“But we do know that he was well-armed, with several firearms, including a semi-automatic pistol, with an extended magazine that enabled him to do so much terrible damage,” Reynolds said. The ballroom the gunman had targeted was “a place for socialising for older residents of the area,” he added.
Fifth mass shooting this month
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people, located approximately 11km (7 miles) from the centre of the city of Los Angeles. About two-thirds of its residents are Asian, according to US Census data, and the city is known for its many Chinese restaurants and grocery stores.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones tonight in our neighboring city, Monterey Park, where a mass shooting just occurred,” Los Angeles City Controller Kenneth Mejia said in a tweet.
Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones tonight in our neighboring city, Monterey Park, where a mass shooting just occurred. Monterey Park is home to one of the largest Asian communities in Los Angeles County and many were out celebrating the Lunar New Year.
— Kenneth Mejia, CPA (@kennethmejiaLA) January 22, 2023
Resident Wong Wei told the newspaper that his friend had been at the dance club and had been in the toilet when the shooting erupted.
When she emerged, she saw a man carrying a long gun and firing indiscriminately, as well as the bodies of three people.
Tony Lai, 35, of Monterey Park was stunned when he came out for his early morning walk to learn that the noises he heard in the night were gunshots.
“I thought maybe it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with Lunar New Year,” he said. “And we don’t even get a lot of fireworks here. It’s weird to see this. It’s really safe here. We’re right in the middle of the city, but it’s really safe.”
The attack happened as Monterey Park was holding its first in-person celebration of the Lunar New Year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The city stages one of the largest Lunar New Year events in southern California.
Wynn Liaw, 57, who lives about two blocks from the Monterey Park studio, said she was shocked that such a crime would happen.
“Chinese people, they consider Chinese New Year very, very special” – a time when “you don’t do anything that will bring bad luck the entire year,” she said.
She took a picture of the activity outside the studio to send to relatives and friends in China “to let them know how crazy the US is becoming with all these mass shootings, even in the New Year”.
The incident marks the fifth mass shooting in the US this month and the deadliest since 21 people were killed in a school in Uvalde, Texas, according to the AP/USA Today database on mass killings in the US.
The latest violence comes two months after five people were killed at a Colorado Springs nightclub.
Mass shootings remain common in the US, which saw 647 shootings with four or more victims in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported last year that there had been 61 “active shooter” incidents in the US in 2021, up 52 percent from 2020 and the highest number on record.
The department defined an “active shooter” as someone engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a public space in a seemingly random fashion. About one in five “active shooter” incidents in 2021 were also mass killings.
Despite the high rate of gun violence, federal gun controls have remained a political sticking point.
While the administration of President Joe Biden last year signed into law the most significant gun safety legislation in decades, gun control advocates said the gains in the bill were relatively modest. They included strengthening background checks, funding laws to remove firearms from people considered to be a threat, and closing a loophole that allowed some people accused of domestic abuse to own guns.
Wider reforms, including higher age restrictions for gun purchases and a federal ban on assault weapons — the firearm of choice for many mass shooters — were not included in the package.