After an hours-long standoff, police force entry into a van that may be linked to the Monterey Park massacre suspect
(CNN) — Investigators are trying to determine whether a man barricaded in a white van in Torrance, California, is the same man who killed 10 people in Monterey Park, the Los Angeles County sheriff said.
SWAT officers were in an hours-long standoff at the scene of the van, which resembles a vehicle that may be connected with the massacre at the Monterey Park dance studio.
As authorities ordered the occupant to leave the van, they heard a sound and believed the driver may have shot himself, law enforcement sources told CNN.
Shortly before 1 p.m. (4 p.m. ET), officers broke a window on the passenger’s side, examined the interior, and later calmly walked away.
Police have not publicly confirmed whether the occupant was dead.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Bureau tweeted that the standoff situation was over shortly after 1:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET): “SEB SWAT operation for an armed suspect in Torrance has concluded. Neighborhood safe.”
For hours, authorities had been searching for the gunman who opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park as the city’s large Asian American community was celebrating Lunar New Year weekend.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released images of the wanted suspect.
In addition to the 10 people killed, another 10 people were wounded and hospitalized, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert G. Luna said.
“Who walks into a dance hall and guns down 20 people?” the sheriff said.
What we know
• It’s not yet certain whether one or more shooters open fire in Monterey Park, Luna said.
• A group of people wrestled a gun away from man described as an Asian male at a dance studio in the nearby city of Alhambra shortly after the Monterey Park mass shooting, Luna said. The sheriff said investigators are trying to determine whether the two incidents are related.
• Early information suggests the gunman who killed 10 people in Monterey Park may be an Asian male, the sheriff said. While “the description we have now is of a male Asian,” some witnesses’ descriptions of the gunman have differed, Luna said. He cautioned the investigation is ongoing. “There actually is a lot more that we don’t know than what we know at this time,” Luna said.
• It’s still too soon to rule out hate crime as a possible motive, the sheriff said Sunday. “Everything’s on the table.”
• Officers responded to a dance studio around 10:22 p.m. Saturday and found people “pouring out of the location, screaming,” said Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
• The massacre took place in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, according to a CNN analysis.
• The 10 slain victims were pronounced dead at the scene, Meyer said. “There were at least 10 other victims who were transported to numerous local hospitals and are listed in various conditions from stable to critical,” Meyer said.
The carnage unfolded near Monterey Park’s Lunar New Year festival, which was scheduled to take place until 9 p.m. on Garvey Avenue between Garfield and Alhambra avenues.
About 65% of Monterey Park’s residents are of Asian descent, according to the US Census Bureau.
“Monterey Park should have had a night of joyful celebration of the Lunar New Year. Instead, they were the victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence,” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted.
While it’s too early to say whether the massacre was a hate crime, the impact has already been felt among one of the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the US, the mayor of nearby Alhambra said.
“To have this tragedy occur on Lunar New Year weekend, makes this especially painful,” Alhambra Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez tweeted.
“Monterey Park is home to one of the largest #AAPI communities in the country. This is a time when residents should be celebrating with family, friends and loved ones – not fearing gun violence.”
Monterey Park, about 7 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, has been known to host Lunar New Year events drawing more than 100,000 people from across Southern California, according to the city.
It’s not clear how many people were still gathered in the area when shots were fired.
The local Lunar New Year festival which began Saturday and was scheduled to last into Sunday has been canceled, Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said Sunday.
“Out of an abundance of caution and reverence for the victims, we are canceling the event that’s going to happen later today,” Wiese said.
Authorities are asking the public for any clues that may help with the investigation. Those with information can contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500 or provide an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
The massacre in Monterey Park marks at least the 33rd mass shooting in the US so far this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both the non-profit and CNN define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.