The Monterey Park mass shooting suspect was a regular at the ballroom studio where he allegedly carried out his horror attack and once complained that the instructors were speaking “evil things” about him, according to people who knew him.
Huu Can Tran, 72, is accused of opening fire inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night, in a massacre that sent shockwaves through the Asian-American community.
The suspect was found dead in his white van on Sunday after shooting himself when law enforcement officers closed in.
The motive for the massacre remains unclear, marking the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 21 young students and teachers were killed in a massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022.
However, acquaintances have cast new light on the 72-year-old suspect and revealed that he met his former wife at the studio where he allegedly unleashed his horror attack.
One friend, who knew Tran in the late 2000s and early 2010s when they both attended the studio, said that Tran was “hostile to a lot of people” at the club.
The friend, who did not want to be named, told CNN that the suspect often complained to him that he thought the dance instructors didn’t like him and said “evil things about him”.
At the time, Tran lived around a five-minute drive from the club and would visit it almost every night, he said.
The two friends hadn’t seen each other in years before Saturday’s shooting, he said.
Now, he said he is “totally shocked” to learn that he was allegedly responsible for the mass shooting as he voiced fears that some of his friends may be among the victims.
“I know lots of people, and if they go to Star studio, they frequent there,” he said.
Tran’s former wife, who also did not want to be named, told CNN that they first met at the Star Ballroom around two decades ago.
At the time, Tran was running informal dance lessons at the club and offered to give her free lessons, she said.
The pair wed soon after.
Tran’s former wife said that the accused mass shooter was never physically violent with her but that he did have a short temper, especially if she missed a step while dancing with him.
She told the network that she felt that Tran then lost interest in her and he filed for divorce in 2005.
It is not clear if Tran was still attending the dance studio in the run-up to the mass shooting.
The motive for the attack remains unclear, with authorities now looking into his criminal and mental health history for clues as to what led to Saturday’s massacre.
The shooting unfolded at around 10.22pm on Saturday night not long after thousands had gathered in the area to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Ten people were killed in the attack while another 10 were also wounded but survived and were taken to hospital for treatment.
Police said that, around 20 minutes on from the first shooting, a gunman entered a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra.
There, a group of heroic patrons managed to wrestle the gun away from the shooter who then fled the scene. No one was injured in the second incident.
A huge manhunt was launched to track down the gunman, culminating around 12 hours later with a police standoff.
Witnesses at the Alhambra incident had reported seeing a white van at the scene.
Around 12 hours on from the mass shooting, officers spotted Tran driving the van around Torrance, about 30 miles from Monterey Park.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference on Sunday that when police pulled over the van, Tran drove into a parking lot.
“When officers exited their patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” the sheriff said.
SWAT teams surrounded the vehicle before approaching the van and finding Tran dead inside from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said.
Evidence found inside the vehicle allegedly ties the 72-year-old to the shooting.
Authorities believe Tran acted alone and are not seeking anyone else in connection to the mass shooting.
Authorities are yet to release the identities of the 10 victims killed in the attack, however friends have identified the first victim as the owner of the ballroom studio.
Ming Wei Ma, the studio owner and dance instructor, heroically ran towards the gunman to try to stop the massacre, a friend told CBS Los Angeles.
“According to the chat, he was the first to rush the shooter,” said Eric Chen, adding that this was typical of Ma’s selfless nature.
“He was just caring, and other first, people first kind of person.”
Mr Chen added that it was “heartbreaking and it’s unthinkable that it would happen”.