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No motive is known yet for the mass shooting at Lunar New Year festival

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The man who authorities say shot and killed 10 people at a dance hall in Southern California over the weekend is dead.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Police say the man opened fire in a community where many people were celebrating the Lunar New Year. His high-powered weapon was banned in California. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna spent much of yesterday giving the public information. Though as often happens, it's hard to understand the gunman's motive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT LUNA: The investigation continues. We want to know. We want to know how something like this, something this awful, can happen.

FADEL: NPR's Nathan Rott is in Monterey Park, the community where this happened, and he joins us now. Good morning, Nate.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So a really traumatic start to a new year as people celebrated...

ROTT: Yeah.

FADEL: ...The start of the year of the rabbit. Tell us what we know about the shooting.

ROTT: Yeah. So the shooting happened on Saturday, the Lunar New Year Eve, here in Monterey Park at a dance hall that we understand is usually frequented by elderly Asian Americans. The gunman, who authorities have identified as a 72-year-old Asian man, walked into the dance hall at around 10:20 p.m. local time, opened fire on the crowd, killing 10 people, injuring 10 more. He then went to another dance hall in Alhambra, which is just north of Monterey Park. And authorities say he was disarmed there by two patrons and then fled.

FADEL: So he was disarmed, but he still escaped.

ROTT: Yeah, that's right. And so, you know, yesterday, there was this huge manhunt underway here in Los Angeles County until around midday when police stopped a vehicle matching a description of the suspect's in Torrance, which is about, you know, 30 minutes southwest of here for people that don't know the LA Basin geography. Authorities say when officers approached the van he was in, a single shot rang out. And then they later found the man dead in the driver's seat from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There were items in the vehicle, authorities say, which tied the man to both crime scenes, and he is believed to have acted alone.

FADEL: Nate, as we both know, these mass shootings happened so often, and it's hard to make sense of such senseless violence. But do authorities have any idea why he did this?

ROTT: At this point, no. That's still the big question hanging over this whole tragedy; you know, that and how the man was able to obtain the weapon he used - a semiautomatic assault pistol that had an extended magazine, which is illegal in California. So authorities are looking into how he was able to obtain that. They're also still trying to identify the victims. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna says five men and five women were killed. All were in their 50s or 60s or older. They're not releasing all of the information about the victims until family can be properly notified. And Monterey Park is a predominantly Asian and Pacific Islander community. It's a place where many Chinese and Taiwanese Americans get their start in this country. So it may take some time for them to let family know what happened if they do have family abroad.

FADEL: So as you said, this happened over the Lunar New Year. As such an important holiday for many Asian Americans, how are people doing?

ROTT: There's a lot of shock and a lot of outrage, as you'd imagine, you know. Here's one of the people I talked to, Vickie Kuo, who came to Monterrey Park to celebrate what he thought would be his first normal New Year holiday in years.

VICKIE KUO: After the pandemic, we finally had, like, normal life. And it's, I believe, the first New Year festival, so it's pretty sad (ph).

ROTT: Yeah. I mean, all of the events yesterday at Monterey Park were canceled for the new year. And I know other parts of the city did that out of caution as well. So a hard way to start the year.

FADEL: NPR's Nate Rott in Monterey Park, Calif, thank you so much.

ROTT: Yeah, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.

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