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Suspect in Monterey Park dance studio massacre was frequent visitor

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2023-01-23T19:33:21Z

Flowers are left near the scene of a shooting that took place during a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, in Monterey Park, California, U.S. January 22, 2023. REUTERS/Allison Dinner

The 72-year-old suspected gunman in Saturday night’s mass shooting at a Los Angeles-area dance studio had been a regular there, giving informal lessons and even meeting his ex-wife at the venue, according to friends and media reports.

Authorities say Huu Can Tran killed 10 people when he opened fire during a celebration of the Lunar New Year at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, popular in the predominantly Asian American city of Monterey Park, east of Los Angeles.

Tran went to another dance club in the neighboring city of Alhambra soon after the massacre, police say, but a patron there wrestled away his gun, which may have thwarted a second attack. Later, Tran died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday as police approached a van he was driving.

It is exceedingly rare for a person over 70 to carry out a mass shooting. While authorities have not identified a motive, some details have emerged about Tran’s background.

Adam Hood, who said he was a longtime tenant of Tran’s who spoke to him frequently, told Reuters Tran was an angry, aggressive, distrustful person who did not have many friends but liked ballroom dancing, his main social activity.

“He was a good dancer,” said Hood, who met Tran in the early 2000s. “But he was distrustful of the people at the studio, angry and distrustful. I think he just had enough.”

Tran complained that people at the studio were talking behind his back, Hood said. Tran, who was divorced, never remarried and did not have a girlfriend, Hood said.

CNN reported, citing an unnamed friend, that Tran complained the dance instructors said “evil things about him” and that Tran was “hostile” to a lot of people at the studio.

Tran had an active trucking license and previously owned a company called Tran’s Trucking starting in 2002. He lived in San Gabriel, near Monterey Park, from the early 1990s until around 2014, records show.

Tran moved in 2020 to a mobile home in a private, gated senior living community with a nine-hole golf course in Hemet, about 90 minutes from Monterey Park. A Hemet police spokesperson said there was no record of any complaints involving Tran.

It was not clear whether he continued to visit the Star Ballroom studio in recent years.

He met his ex-wife at the studio about two decades ago, she told CNN in an interview. Tran introduced himself to her and offered her free lessons.

While Tran was never violent, he was quick to anger, for instance if she missed a step while dancing, she told CNN. They divorced in 2005.

Efforts to interview the ex-wife at a house listed in records as her residence were unsuccessful on Monday.

A database of 185 mass shootings between 1966 and 2022 maintained by The Violence Project, a nonprofit, includes only one carried out by someone 70 or older: a retired miner killed five people in a store in Allen, Kentucky in 1981.