The 11 people killed in a dance hall shooting ranged in age from 57 to 76, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said Tuesday as it released the names of the dead as investigators continued to probe the cause of the deadliest shooting in county history.
Sheriff Robert Luna called the gunman, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, a “crazy person” and said investigators were looking into whether he was related to the people shot at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio.
Tran fired 42 rounds from a semi-automatic weapon on Saturday night, killing 11 people and wounding nine others at the ballroom popular with older Asian Americans. He then drove to another nearby dance hall where an employee fired a modified 9 mm submachine gun-style weapon from him, Luna said.
Tran fatally shot himself on Sunday as officers surrounded the van he was inside. A handgun was recovered from the van, which matched the description of the vehicle he used to escape the dance studio.
The shooting was the nation’s fifth mass shooting of the year and the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
As Monterey Park residents and Asian Americans erupted in violence Monday, a gunman in Northern California killed seven people at two farms. This was the third mass shooting in California in eight days.
The names of the six women and five men killed in Monterey Park were released Tuesday. All but one were in their 60s and 70s.
Tran went to the ballroom and another dance hall he later targeted and took issue with the way he thought people there treated him, a man who identified himself as a longtime friend told The Associated Press . Tran offered to teach new women in both clubs how to free dance so he would have a partner.
Tran was forever distrustful and paranoid and would regularly complain that people in clubs didn’t like him, according to the former friend who asked to speak anonymously about Tran because he wanted to avoid media attention.
“He always cast a skeptical eye towards everything. He didn’t trust people at all,” said the friend. “He always complained to me that the instructors … kept him away, and according to what he said, a lot of people spoke badly about him.”
Investigators were also looking into reports Tran made twice this month to police at the town where he lived that family members tried to poison him, defraud him and steal from him a decade or two ago in the L.A. area, Hemet police spokesman Alan Reyes told the Associated Press. Tran never returned with the documents he promised to provide.
“Our investigators will be looking at all of those factors to see if it contributed to the rampage,” Luna told reporters.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies searched Tran’s home in a gated senior community in Hemet, a little over an hour from the scene of the shooting.
Officers found a .308-caliber rifle, an unknown number of bullets and evidence that he was making homemade firearm silencers.
Tran lived in The Lakes at Hemet West, a gated community off a busy road with a view of snow-capped mountains. The development has a par-3 golf course, a shuffleboard court and a dance floor. The properties for sale ranged from $45,000 to $222,000.
A neighbor, Pat Roth, told Los Angeles television station KNBC that Tran said he was a ballroom dance instructor in the past and would sometimes show up for dances at the senior community.
“It doesn’t seem like it would hurt to fly, you know. He wasn’t a big guy,” Roth said. “He petted your dog when you walked by.”
Hemet police had no record of any incidents involving Tran in the community or calls for service at his home, Reyes said.
Authorities are divided on Tran, who owned a trucking company in Monterey Park from 2002 to 2004, according to California business records.
He was arrested once for illegal possession of a firearm in 1990 and had a limited criminal history, Luna said. The sheriff could not immediately say if seizing a gun at a time when firearms laws were different would have prevented him from owning it.
Tran’s ex-wife told CNN that they married soon after meeting at Star Ballroom, where he offered to teach her to dance for free. He would be upset if she missed a prom, but he was never violent towards her, she said.
They divorced five years later, citing irreconcilable differences, Los Angeles Superior Court records show. The couple had no children, said they had no community property and neither side had to pay alimony.
Although she is named in court papers, she asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the case.
The women killed were: Diana Tom, 70, Muoi Ung, 67, My Nhan, 65, Lilian Li, 63, Hong Jian, 62 and Xiujuan Yu, 57, according to the Los Angeles coroner’s office. The men were: Chia Yau, 76, Ming Ma, 72, Yu Kao, 72, Valentino Alvero, 68, and Wen Yu, 64.
Tran might have killed many more if not for the bravery of Brandon Tsay, who was working at a dance club in nearby Alhambra when Tran came in about 20 minutes after the Monterey Park monster .
Tsay quickly responded and disarmed Tran in a brief struggle that was captured on surveillance camera at the Lai Lai Ballroom.
“The guy was cocking his gun,” said his father, Tom Tsay, co-owner of the studio. “He saw the opportunity and jumped.”
The Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday with Tsay, 26, who works part-time at the dance club founded by his grandparents, and said he is a true hero.
“This amazing young man who took it upon himself to save countless lives, without any hesitation — even though they were scared,” Newsom said. “Who knows how many lives he saved.”
Brandon Tsay said he was proud of his actions but did not want to discuss them so the focus would remain on the victims.
“I know some of these people personally,” Tsay said outside his family’s home. They come to our studio. It’s a tight-knit community, and I hope they can heal from this tragic event.”
Taxi reported from Hemet, Dazio reported from Alhambra and Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston, Christopher Weber, John Antczak and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles, and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.