The motive for the mass shooting in Monterey Park continues to elude investigators

The motive for the mass shooting in Monterey Park continues to elude investigators

  • US News
  • January 26, 2023
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?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times me monterey shooting 29 ajs News For Everyone Zoohouse News

In the four days since 72-year-old Huu Can Tran opened fire on a dance studio in Monterey Park, fragments of his life and possible motives for the attack have slowly come to light.

He once frequented the ballroom dancing scene but seemed to have personal grievances against some in this world. He lived a somewhat isolated life. A law enforcement source confirmed to The Times that Tran was a gun enthusiast who bought the MAC-10 semi-automatic assault weapon used in the 1999 attack.

But a clear sense of why he killed 11 people in Monterey Park before launching another attack on a dance hall in the Alhambra, which was thwarted, remains a mystery.

And that mystery only seemed to grow Wednesday night with a hastily called press conference from LA County Sheriff Robert Luna, who said that no one has recalled Tran having attended the two dance halls or an in-person visit in the past five years Connection to one of the had the victims.

“To date, based on interviews, they have been unable to establish a connection between the suspect and any of the victims,” ​​Luna said.

The investigation is still in its early stages and it may take weeks or longer to get the full picture of what went wrong. The investigation is also complicated by Trans death. About 12 hours after he was disarmed in the lobby of the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio and escaped, authorities said he fatally shot himself in his van in Torrance as officers approached him.

“The problem is, once the suspect is dead, it’s literally a guess as to his motive,” said Billy Hayes, a retired captain who ran the Los Angeles Police Department’s robbery-homicide division. “It’s like you’re trying to put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together and you’re missing a crucial piece – the suspect.”

Experts say investigators are likely looking for clues through computers and cell phones they confiscated from Trans’s home, along with information through interviews with people who knew him. Detectives have yet to uncover any writings revealing the shooter’s motive, Luna said.

Monterey Park police found a Tran-registered motorcycle about a block from the scene, suggesting he may have left himself a backup vehicle if his van wasn’t available, Luna said Wednesday night.

“We assume that it is an additional getaway vehicle [to use] if I have to,” the sheriff said. “Why else would he put it there?”

Tran fired 42 times in a “spraying motion” at the dance studio and left a 30-round magazine, Luna said.

Luna also stated that the weapon used by Tran in the attack, commonly known as the MAC-10, was a Cobray M11-9 assault pistol that was purchased from Monterey Park in February 1999 and was not registered in the state of California. A 7.62x25mm Norinco pistol was used in his suicide, Luna said. Police also recovered a Savage Arms .308 bolt action rifle from Trans Haus in Hemet.

Investigators continue to comb through electronics, paperwork and other items found in Trans’s home.

“We’re looking at everything, in every direction, but casually, and again with the goal of finding a subject,” Luna said. “And hopefully we can. Sometimes it’s frustrating when something like that happens. It’s so tragic because we’re trying to understand it. And it makes no sense. It really doesn’t.”

Det. Sal LaBarbera, a former LAPD South Bureau homicide detective, said, “Why is always the question that the family urgently needs to answer along with the public through the news media.”

But LaBarbera, who retired from the department in 2015, said motives can be difficult to determine when a suspect is dead and hasn’t left a paper trail or electronic footprint describing his thoughts.

Even when a case goes unprosecuted, investigators can find it a personal mission to find out what prompted someone to commit violence.

“Even though it might not be used in court, I needed it, I wanted to understand why,” LaBarbera said of his time working cases. “Investigators want to learn from each case … if there’s a way to nip that in the bud in future cases, and it’s something that can be shared and taught to other agencies and the public.”

There’s a chance the public will never know why Tran carried out the murders.

Authorities are also likely trying to gather enough evidence to prove that Tran was in fact the shooter and that there were no co-conspirators. A motive isn’t required, but it’s something investigators want to find out if they can, Orange County Sheriff’s Homicide Sgt. Jack Ackerman said.

“I think it’s kind of human nature to want to know why something happened or why someone acted a certain way,” Ackerman said. “Unfortunately, in many cases we’re not really able to provide a satisfactory answer to make someone feel at peace with what happened or have closure.”

After the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, investigators spent more than a year combing through evidence before closing the case without finding a clear motive. The shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Festival remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

According to an FBI report on the case, there was “not a single or clear motivating factor” that propelled the shooter’s killing spree. But that’s not unusual, the report said.

“Active shooters rarely have a single motive or reason for engaging in mass murder,” the report said. “More often, their motives are a complex amalgamation of developmental issues, interpersonal relationships, clinical issues, and contextual stressors.”

In some mass shootings, the attacker provides a detailed, often insane, explanation.

David Wenwei Chou, the man accused of fatally shooting one person and wounding five at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods last year, has left many clues as to his motive.

He sent seven volumes entitled “Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence” to a Chinese-language newspaper. He left notes in his car stating that he doesn’t believe Taiwan should be independent from China. Chou apparently had a problem with the Taiwanese because of the way he was treated while living in Taiwan, authorities said. He was raised in Taiwan as Waishengren – someone with more recent roots in China.

Based on this evidence, prosecutors filed criminal charges against him for hate crimes.

People who knew Tran described him as a lonely, bitter man, for whom dancing the Lai Lai and Star offered a moment of respite from an otherwise miserable life. But even that wasn’t entirely happy.

A former friend of Tran’s, who was also his renter for years, said he often complained about the teachers at the studios, who he thought disliked him. It was a theory the man, who asked not to be named, believed was a “delusion”.

“He always complained that the instructors weren’t kind to him, like he was estranged and they just didn’t like him,” the man said. “That’s what he was thinking in his head, and I haven’t seen any evidence of it at all.”

A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told the Times that Tran likely snapped and decided to target those he felt had offended his well-being over the years. Investigators suspect he had unspecified emotional issues that had recently worsened.

Two weeks before the shooting, Tran told Hemet police that family members tried to poison him many years ago. He also claimed to have been a victim of fraud and theft. He promised to return with evidence but never did, according to police.

Tran was arrested in 1990 on suspicion of unlawful possession of a firearm, authorities said.

Authorities have said very little publicly about the shooter’s possible motives.

Luna elaborated on his own questions during a press conference on Monday: “Did he plan that on the day of? Was it a week before? What drove a madman to do this? We don’t know and we intend to find out,” he said. “We’re just as curious as you are, because that’s disturbing.”

Ultimately, police may be able to form a hypothesis about trans motives, Hayes said, but there probably never will be any certainty.

“I always thought solving cases was like putting a puzzle together. With the simple cases, you get all the outside pieces and then you fill in the stuff and you see a clearer picture,” Hayes said. “If you get pieces that are missing because of the suspect’s death, the puzzle is never complete.”

Times contributor Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.

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