MONTEREY PARK (CNS) – A possible suspect in a mass shooting in which 10 people were killed and another 10 wounded at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park was found dead inside a white van at a strip mall in Torrance today after a standoff with law enforcement.
The mass shooting attack occurred at 10:22 p.m. Saturday at the Star Dance Studio in the 100 block of West Garvey Avenue, Homicide Bureau Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told reporters at the scene during an early morning news conference.
Ten people were pronounced dead at the scene and the 10 injured were listed in stable to critical condition at area hospitals including Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, Meyer said. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the 10 dead were five men and five women.
About 17 minutes after the Monterey Park shooting, a man walked into the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in the 100 block of South Garfield Avenue in neighboring Alhambra with a gun, but some people wrestled the weapon away from him and he fled, Luna said.
In what he called a “preliminary description,” Luna said the shooter was an Asian man between 30 and 50 years old. The sheriff’s department later released surveillance images of the suspect taken from the Alhambra incident and added that he was 5-feet-10 inches tall and 150 pounds, and last seen wearing a black leather jacket, a beanie and glasses.
Luna added that authorities were searching for a white cargo van the suspect might have used to escape.
Torrance police later cornered a white van at a parking lot on the south side of Sepulveda Boulevard, just west of Hawthorne Boulevard, at a strip mall not far from Del Amo Fashion Center. Police maneuvered two SWAT vehicles on either end of the van, butting up against it, while a large number of police vehicles stood by for support.
All lanes at the intersection of Hawthorne and Sepulveda were closed for the police investigation.
A law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that shots were fired, but it was not clear if anyone was hit. A bomb squad truck was sent to the strip mall, which contains a Tokyo Central outlet and a Daiso store. A sheriff’s department helicopter also landed on Hawthorne Boulevard and was standing by.
Authorities entered the van shortly before 1 p.m. and found a man in the driver’s seat dead from one or more gunshot wounds. It was not immediately clear if the wounds were self-inflicted or if the man was shot by police or sheriff’s personnel.
Luna said at a news briefing later Sunday that authorities did not know for sure whether the person in the van was connected to the two earlier crimes. He said authorities had the suspect’s name, but were not releasing it yet because they believe it could hamper efforts to take him into custody.
The motive for Saturday’s attack has not been released, but the shooting took place near a large celebration for the Chinese New Year. The city of Monterey Park canceled Sunday’s planned second day of the two-day celebration, but other holiday events were still planned throughout Southern California. Luna said at a Sunday morning news conference that he would be attending a similar event in a few hours, and encouraged the public to continue celebrating the holiday.
Police Chief Michel Moore said the Los Angeles Police Department has “added patrols across our Asian communities today and will meet with any organizers hosting New Year celebrations.”
“We are working closely with @LASDHQ and @MontereyParkPD to support in any manner possible. Such a tragic loss of life and a dark day,” Moore tweeted.
The Long Beach Police Department also said its officers would be increasing patrols Sunday.
The manhunt was drawing assistance from the FBI, the ATF, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and a host of local law enforcement agencies. Luna said authorities recovered the weapon from the Alhambra incident, but he did not say what kind of weapon was used in the Monterey Park shooting.
Asked if it might be a hate crime, the sheriff said, “Everything is on the table.”
However, Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce L.A., told ABC7 that he knew the husband and wife who own the studio and he believed it was a domestic violence incident.
“Sometimes, the wife go (to the dance studio) and the husband does
not go. That’s why he’s so upset, and because we have so many guns, it’s too
easy to bring a gun over there to kill people. It’s horrible, it’s very sad,”
“This is not a hate crime, this is not. This case is a personal case,” he said.
Chong’s account was unconfirmed.
A news videographer at the scene in Alhambra said people at the business were able to disarm the male suspect, who fled the scene, and no injuries were reported. Luna said sheriff’s officials recovered the weapon which he said was not a high-powered assault-type weapon. The sheriff cautioned that it was not necessarily the suspect’s only weapon.
The Monterey Park shooting occurred about an hour after thousands of people had been in the area for the first day of a two-day Lunar New Year festival that had ended before the shots were fired. Most of the crowds had already left the area.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese told reporters the second day of the event scheduled for Sunday was canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The City of Monterey Park is saddened to announce that there was a shooting incident that occurred at 122 West Garvey in the City of Monterey Park late on Saturday, January 21,” officials said. “The City expresses condolences to the individuals, families, and friends who were injured in this tragic incident. Even though the incident did not occur at the 2023 Lunar New Year Festival, an active investigation is currently underway and the area near and around the festival is affected.”
In light of the shooting, the USC Pacific Asia Museum canceled its Lunar New Year Festival that was scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
“All of us at USC PAM are heartbroken to hear about the horrific violence that happened in our home in the San Gabriel Valley,” Museum Director Bethany Montagano said. “Our hearts mourn with the victims’ families and our
community members at this time.”
When Monterey Park police officers arrived they saw numerous patrons pouring out of the business, screaming, Meyer said. He said detectives will review surveillance video and “work every lead in the case.”
Seung Won Choi, who owns a seafood barbecue restaurant across the street from the shooting site, told the Los Angeles Times that three people rushed into his restaurant and told him to lock the door because a man with a semiautomatic gun was in the area, The Times reported.
They told Choi the shooter had multiple rounds of ammunition and was able to reload his weapon, according to the paper.
Video from the scene showed first responders from other jurisdictions helping their Monterey Park counterparts. Patrol vehicles from Alhambra and El Monte were observed as well as an ambulance from South Pasadena.
Jorge Orozco, CEO of LAC+USC Medical Center, released the following statement late Sunday morning: “At this time, we can confirm that our LAC+USC Medical Center has
received four of the victims of the Monterey Park Mass Shooting … Due to Federal HIPAA patient privacy laws, we are unable to share details on our patients’ status. However, we want to assure the families of those at our LAC+USC Medical Center that our medical teams are doing everything possible to care for their loved ones.
Finally, we want to express our profound sympathies to the families and loved ones of those whose lives were violently taken in this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, a victims’ resource center was opened at Langley Senior Citizens Center, 400 W. Emerson Ave. in Monterey Park, where members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s psychological services unit will beavailable to help those affected by Saturday night’s shooting.