US police focus on jealousy as Lunar New Year shooting motive, says report

MONTEREY PARK, Jan 24 — Detectives probing why an elderly Chinese immigrant shot dead 11 people as they celebrated Lunar New Year at a dance hall in California are examining whether jealousy or a personal dispute was behind the tragedy, a report said Monday.

Huu Can Tran, 72, used a semi-automatic pistol in a rampage in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, killing men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

He then drove to another dance studio where police say only the quick actions of a young hero who wrestled the weapon off him, prevented another slaughter.

Hours later, Tran shot himself dead after police found his white box van.

Detectives were focusing Monday on Tran’s previous connections to the two dance studios, with personal relationships a key area of interest, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing law enforcement sources.

Monterey Park resident Chester Hong told AFP he believed a domestic dispute over an invitation to a Lunar New Year eve party could be at the root of the attack.

“The wife (was) invited to join the party (but) the husband cannot be invited,” he said on Sunday. “And the husband may be upset and jealous.”

‘Hostile’

On Monday a picture began to emerge of a man who, according to his marriage licence, had emigrated from China, and who had been a regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in the past.

Tran’s ex-wife told CNN the two had met there two decades ago when he offered to give her informal lessons.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said they married a short time later, but the relationship did not last, with the couple divorcing in 2006.

She said Tran, who sometimes worked as a truck driver, was not violent, but could be impatient, for example if she messed up a dance step.

A man who said he had previously known Tran well said he would complain about the dance teachers whom he claimed would say “evil things about him”, CNN reported.

He was “hostile to a lot of people there,” the man told the broadcaster.

Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were reported to be searching the mobile home where Tran had been living in Hemet, a city 85 miles (140 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

The Times, citing law enforcement sources, said Tran had recently visited a police station in Hemet, where he complained that his family was trying to poison him.

‘Her last dance’

Saturday night’s rampage was the worst mass shooting in the United States since a gunman in Uvalde, Texas killed 21 people at an elementary school last May.

The toll from Monterey Park, one of California’s largest Asian communities, rose to 11 on Monday when one of those injured in the attack died in hospital.

The Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center said a total of four victims were treated at the hospital and one remained in a serious condition.

The coroner in Los Angeles on Monday said all of those who died were in their 50s, 60s or 70s, and named two of the dead women as My Nhan, aged 65 and 63-year-old Lilan Li.

A statement released by Nhan’s family said the tragedy was “still sinking in.”

“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends,” it said.

“It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.

“We are starting the Lunar New Year broken.”

In among the heartbreak, stories of hope and heroism also emerged.

Security footage showed 26-year-old Brandon Tsay grappling with Tran in the lobby of the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra as he tried to rip the Cobray M11 9mm semi-automatic weapon from him.

“I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon, and had a struggle,” Tsay told ABC.

“We struggled into the lobby, trying to get the gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face, bashing me in the back of my head, I was trying to use my elbows to get the gun away from him.

“Finally, at one point I was able to pull the gun away from him, shove him aside, create some distance, point the gun at him, intimidate him, shouting, ‘Get the hell out here. I’ll shoot. Get away. Go.’”

LA County Sheriff Robert Luna on Sunday praised the then-unnamed Tsay, saying: “This could have been much worse.” — AFP