MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP)
On Sunday, a gunman killed 10 people at a ballroom dance studio during a Lunar New Year celebration and then may have tried — but failed — to target a second dance hall. An urgent search is underway for the suspect in the Los Angeles area.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said five women and five men were killed and 10 others were wounded in a shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park. Then 20 to 30 minutes later, a man with a gun entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in nearby Alhambra.
Luna said it is not yet clear if the events are related.
The Alhambra incident “may be related,” Luna said. “We’re not quite there yet, but it’s definitely on our radar.”
The suspect in both cases was described as an Asian male. He entered the Alhambra club with a gun and people wrestled his weapon from him before he fled, Luna said. Investigators are interested in a white van that was seen in the area, he added.
The sheriff declined to say what type of gun was found in the Alhambra. He said investigators believe the gun used in the Monterey park was not an automatic.
The mass killing that struck fear in Monterey Park and the Alhambra was the country’s fifth mass killing this month. It was also the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uwald, Texas.
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, made up mostly of Asian immigrants from China or first-generation Asian Americans. The shooting took place in the very center of the city, where red lanterns decorated the streets to celebrate the Lunar New Year. A police car was parked near a large banner reading “Happy Year of the Rabbit!”
The celebration in Monterey Park is one of the largest in California and attracts tens of thousands of people throughout the day.
Two days of festivities were planned, which in previous years were visited by up to 100,000 people. But officials canceled Sunday’s events after the shooting.
Tony Lay, 35, of Monterey Park, was stunned when he went out for his morning walk to learn that the sounds he heard during the night were gunshots.
“I thought it was fireworks. I thought maybe it had something to do with the Lunar New Year,” he said. “And we don’t even have that many fireworks here. It’s amazing to see that. It’s really safe here. We’re in the heart of the city, but it’s really safe.”
Win Liu, 57, who lives about two blocks from the Monterey Park studio, said she was shocked that such a crime had occurred, especially during New Year’s celebrations.
“The Chinese consider Chinese New Year very, very special” — a time when “you don’t do anything that might bring you bad luck all year.”
She took pictures of the activity outside the studio to send to relatives and friends in China “to let them know how crazy the US is getting with all these mass shootings, even on New Year’s.”
The Associated Press/USA Today U.S. Mass Homicide Database shows 2022 was one of the nation’s worst years for mass murders, with 42 such attacks, the second-highest total since the tracker began in 2006. defines mass murder as the killing of four people, excluding the perpetrator.
The latest violence comes two months after five people were killed at a Colorado Springs nightclub.
President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have been briefed on the situation, aides said.
The shooting happened at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a few blocks from City Hall on Monterey Park’s main street, Harvey Avenue, which is lined with small business malls with signs in English and Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin are widely spoken, the city celebrates Chinese holidays, and the city regularly shows Chinese films.
The business offered dance lessons from tango to rumba to foxtrot and rented space for events. On Saturday, its website said it was hosting an event called “Starry Night” from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.