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The latest on the Monterey Park shooting

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Officials in Los Angeles County are still trying to figure out what drove a 72-year-old man to enter a packed ballroom dance studio on Saturday and open fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT LUNA: We still don't have a motive, but we want to know the motive behind this tragic event.

SHAPIRO: That was LA County Sheriff Robert Luna speaking late today. Earlier, authorities said another victim in the shooting had died, bringing the total dead to 11, with nine others injured. Officials say this is now the deadliest mass shooting on recording in Los Angeles County. It has shattered the largely Asian American city of Monterey Park.

NPR's Adrian Florido is in Monterey Park. Hi there.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, along with some others, visited Monterey Park today. What did Padilla say?

FLORIDO: Right, he was among a number of county- and state-level officials here today; among them, Governor Gavin Newsom. Both men have been expressing condolences and also talking today about the importance of addressing gun violence. Here's what Senator Padilla said at an informal press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ALEX PADILLA: We cannot let mass shootings be the norm; not here in Monterey Park, not in California, not anywhere in the United States of America.

FLORIDO: Officials today also said that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about this crime that they are still investigating.

SHAPIRO: One of those unanswered questions is, why did this happen? Authorities say the suspected gunman took his own life yesterday as police closed in on the van he was driving. Can you tell us anything more about his motive?

FLORIDO: Investigators have said they just simply don't have one yet. Here is Sheriff Luna again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUNA: What drove a madman to do this, we don't know. And we're as curious as you are because it's - this is disturbing.

FLORIDO: Police have said the shooter was a 72-year-old Asian man named Huu Can Tran. He was from Riverside County, about 45 minutes east of Los Angeles. He was also apparently a part-time dance instructor who had a relationship with both the Star Ballroom Dance Studio where he carried out the massacre and the nearby Lai Lai Ballroom, where he showed up later Saturday night and apparently planned to keep shooting. There he engaged in a long physical struggle with the front desk employee who managed to wrestle his gun away. Ari, as police search for a motive to this crime, they've conducted several searches, including at the shooter's home. They said they found weapons and a lot of ammunition there along with several electronic devices.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the victims because investigators began releasing some of their names today. What can you tell us about those who were killed?

FLORIDO: Well, we know that they were in their 50s, 60s or 70s. This dance studio was a place where many older Asian Americans and Asian immigrants went to dance waltzes, tangos, salsa and cha-cha and other ballroom dances. Police are still working to identify all the victims and contact their families, but they have named four so far - a 63-year-old woman named Lilan Li; a 57-year-old woman name Xiujuan Yu; Valentino Alvero - he was 68 - and My Nhan - she was 65. Her family posted a statement online alongside a photo of her smiling in a sparkly blue dress. And they said that she had been going to the Star Ballroom for many years. They said it was what she loved to do, and they lamented that Saturday was her last dance.

SHAPIRO: The tragedy is being felt very widely, but particularly among the Asian American community of Monterey Park. In other parts of the show, we've been talking about the impact on people there. What are you seeing?

FLORIDO: The community's handling this with a lot of difficulty but a lot of grace also. Asian Americans in this country have been on edge for years now. We've seen a large spike in crimes motivated by anti-Asian bias. And Asian leaders say that that is in large part because of the way former President Trump blamed Asians and specifically Chinese people for the COVID pandemic. And so it's understandable that a crime like this would trigger fears that this crime could be motivated by anti-Asian hate.

In the last couple of days, Asian American leaders and community members have been mobilizing to support each other and help each other process the trauma. And here in Monterey Park, a resource center has been set up at a senior center. And officials are urging anyone who might need help to reach out.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Adrian Florido reporting from Monterey Park, Calif. Thank you.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.
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