Authorities are searching for a motive for the gunman who killed 10 people at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club during Lunar New Year celebrations as a wave of fear cast a shadow over Asian American communities nationwide.
The suspect, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday in the van that authorities say he used to flee after being prevented from attacking another dance hall.
The New York Times reported that a man whose family runs the second venue wrested the gun from the assailant.
The massacre in Monterey Park was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month, and 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 a primary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Little is known about Tran or his connection to the targeted community and dance halls. Public records show he once had addresses in Monterey Park and neighbouring cities.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the motive remained unclear for the attack, which wounded another 10 people.
Speaking at a Sunday evening news conference, he said all those killed appeared to be over 50. No other suspects were at large, according to the sheriff.
The suspect was carrying what Mr Luna described as a semi-automatic pistol with an extended magazine, and a second handgun was discovered in the van where he died.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said on Sunday evening that within three minutes of receiving a call, officers arrived at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.
“When they came into the parking lot it, was chaos,” Mr Wiese said.
About 20 to 30 minutes after the first attack, the gunman entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra, but two people took the weapon away from him, Mr Luna said.
Witnesses said the suspect then fled in a white van.
The van was found in Torrance, another community home to many Asian Americans, about 22 miles from the second location.
After surrounding the vehicle for hours, law enforcement officials swarmed and entered it. A person’s body appeared to be slumped over the wheel and was later removed. Members of a Swat team looked through the van’s contents before walking away.
The sheriff’s department earlier released photos of an Asian man believed to be the suspect, apparently taken from a security camera.
Congresswoman Judy Chu said she still has questions about the attack but hopes residents now feel safe.
“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” she said at Sunday’s news conference.
“What was the motive for this shooter?” she added. “Did he have a mental illness? Was he a domestic violence abuser? How did he get these guns and was it through legal means or not?”
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles and is composed mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans.
An Associated Press/USA Today database on mass killings in the US shows that 2022 was one of the nation’s worst years with 42 such attacks — the second-highest number since the creation of the tracker in 2006.
The database defines a mass killing as four people killed, not including the perpetrator.
California governor Gavin Newsom visited Monterey Park on Sunday, meeting victims and their families as well as local officials.
President Joe Biden and attorney general Merrick Garland were briefed on the situation, aides said. Mr Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden were thinking of those killed and wounded.