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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp

Monterey Park mass shooting: First victim identified as owner of ballroom club who died trying to stop gunman


The first victim of the Monterey mass shooting has been identified by friends as the owner of the ballroom studio who heroically ran towards the gunman to try to stop the massacre.

Ming Wei Ma is among 10 people killed in the horrific massacre at the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, close to Los Angeles, on Sunday night.

His friends told CBS Los Angeles that the studio owner and dance instructor was the first to rush toward suspected gunman Huu Can Tran when he began opening fire inside the club.

“According to the chat, he was the first to rush the shooter,” said Eric Chen, adding that this was typical of Ma’s selfless nature.

“He was just caring, and other first, people first kind of person.”

Mr Chen added that it was “heartbreaking and it’s unthinkable that it would happen”.

On Monday morning, authorities began to release details of the other victims. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office publicly identified two women: My Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63.

Of the ten dead, five were men and five were women. Nine were aged in their 60s and 70s and one woman was in her 50s.

At least 10 other victims were also wounded in the mass shooting but survived and were taken to hospital for treatment.

On Sunday, the 72-year-old gunman was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white van following a standoff with police.

The shooting unfolded at around 10.22pm on Saturday night not long after thousands had gathered in the area to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Police said that, around 20 minutes later, a gunman entered a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra.

There, a group of heroic patrons managed to wrestle the gun away from the shooter who then fled the scene. No one was injured in the second incident.

A huge manhunt was launched to track down the gunman of what marks the worst mass shooting in the US since 21 young students and teachers were killed in a massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Ming Wei Ma was identified by friends as one of the 10 killed (KCAL News)

Investigators tracked down Tran after witnesses at the Alhambra incident reported seeing a white cargo van at the scene and surveillance footage of the suspect was circulated to the public.

Around 12 hours on from the mass shooting, officers spotted Tran driving the van around Torrance, about 30 miles from Monterey Park.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference on Sunday that when police pulled over the van, Tran drove into a parking lot.

“When officers exited their patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” the sheriff said.

SWAT teams surrounded the vehicle before approaching the van and finding Tran dead inside from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said.

Evidence found inside the vehicle allegedly ties the 72-year-old to the shooting.

Authorities believe Tran acted alone and are not seeking anyone else in connection to the mass shooting.

The motive for the attack remains unclear.

Tran had been a regular at the Star Dance Studio for years and had previously complained about instructors making “evil” comments about him, according to people who knew him.

He had also met his ex-wife at the club, sources told CNN.

One friend, who knew Tran in the late 2000s and early 2010s when they both attended the studio, said that Tran was “hostile to a lot of people” at the club.

He said that the suspect often complained to him that he thought the dance instructors didn’t like him and said “evil things about him”.

The two friends hadn’t seen each other in years, he said.

Now, he said he is “totally shocked” to learn that he was allegedly responsible for the mass shooting.

Tran’s former wife, who also did not want to be named, told CNN that they first met at the Star Ballroom around two decades ago.

At the time, Tran was running informal dance lessons at the club and offered to give her free lessons, she said.

The pair wed soon after.

Tran’s former wife said that the accused mass shooter was never physically violent with her but that he did have a short temper, especially if she missed a step while dancing with him.

She told the network that she felt that Tran then lost interest in her and he filed for divorce in 2005.

It is not clear if Tran was still attending the dance studio in the run-up to the mass shooting or if he knew any of the victims.

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