MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Huu Can Tran, 72, was a truck driver, a divorcee and an immigrant who moved to Texas then California. Then on Saturday, with a barrage of ammunition, he became the oldest mass shooting suspect in U.S. history, as this Asian American community gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Days after the attack, detectives are searching for a clear motive as to why Tran would commit such violence.
Here’s what we know so far:
Huu Can Tran attacked Asian American dance studios
Authorities believe Tran shot at a person in a vehicle outside the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park before entering the local community fixture where an event was underway. Tran fired a barrage of at least 42 shots from his modified semi-automatic weapon, with relative precision, hitting some of the 20 people struck multiple times.
Then he traveled roughly three miles away to another community dance studio, Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, where a second attack was thwarted by the owner’s son, Brandon Tsay, who was working in the dance hall’s entry area that evening. Tsay wrestled the weapon away from Tran. He then called 911 afterward, reporting that Tran had left in a white cargo van.
Monterey Park shooter was making homemade firearm suppressors
Authorities retrieved from a search warrant of Tran’s Hemet home a .308 caliber rifle and items that led them to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna at a news conference Monday.
Officers also found “an unknown amount” of .308 and 9mm caliber ammunition in various containers that were being counted, Luna said.
Authorities retrieved a Chinese-manufactured Norinco commercial 7.62x25mm handgun, which was registered to Tran, inside his white cargo van as well as the clothing he was wearing when he attacked the dance halls in Monterey Park and Alhambra, Luna said.
Luna said that the of Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, Brandon Tsay, was a 9mm caliber semi-automatic MAC-10 assault weapon. He said the weapon had been modified, but declined to provide further details because witnesses were still being interviewed.
Motive is still unclear: ‘What drove a madman to do this?’
Despite a swirl of rumors surrounding Tran’s motives Saturday night, Luna said detectives do not know why Tran targeted the dance halls. The FBI is collaborating on that part of the investigation, Luna said.
“There’s information out there that the suspect may have committed these crimes … due to jealousy or some relationship issues,” Luna said. “We’re hearing those things too but have not confirmed any of that information. It’s part of what our investigators are diligently looking into.”
Luna said detectives were looking into reports of possible relationships between the suspect and individuals at the dance hall, but could not confirm any relations yet. But so far, Luna said there is no evidence any victim is related to the suspect.
Authorities have ruled out that Tran was acting in connection with the Lunar New Year, a major holiday in the Asian community that began over the weekend.
“What drove a madman to do this?” Luna said. “We don’t know, but we intend to find out. and we’re as curious as you are because it’s, I mean, this is disturbing.”
Monterey Park shooter had ‘limited’ criminal history
Tran had a “limited criminal history,” Luna said, with an arrest in 1990 for an unlawful possession of a firearm.
Earlier this year, he repeatedly visited a police station in Hemet, where he had recently moved to a small home inside a retirement community — about 75 miles east of his former San Gabriel Valley community and their dance halls. Hemet Police Department spokesman Alan Reyes said Tran claimed he had been poisoned by his family members in Los Angeles County over the last several decades. Tran told police he would return to the station with evidence of the alleged crimes but never did, Reyes said.
What we know about Huu Can Tran’s background
Authorities have not said where Tran went or what he did during the 20 or so hours after the attacks. He was located in Torrance, roughly 27 miles away from the dance halls, when he fatally shot himself Sunday afternoon while in his cargo van as .
Luna said Monday that authorities had not been able to notify Tran’s next of kin of his death, and he noted that doing so was part of the process of figuring out his background.
What is known about Tran’s background remains limited. According to public records, he first immigrated to Texas before moving to the San Gabriel Valley in the late 1980s. Tran lived in multiple cities, including San Gabriel, Arcadia, Alhambra and Monterey Park, all of which have become home to one of the largest diaspora communities of Chinese American immigrants outside of China.
Tran was married for 4 1/2 years before he filed for a dissolution of marriage with no minor children in 2005. While married, he and his wife lived in a San Gabriel home he owned for nearly two decades. The divorce, which was uncontested, was finalized the following year, according to court records.
Tran was the chief executive officer of his own trucking company, Tran’s Trucking Inc., based out of his San Gabriel home, which he started in 2002 and dissolved in 2004, per business filings with the California Secretary of State. He noted in his certificate of dissolution that the corporation never acquired any known assets.