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Why police took hours to warn public that Monterey Park mass shooter was on the loose

Richard Winton, Hannah Fry, Brittny Mejia and Noah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“During a manhunt for dangerous suspects, law enforcement must follow up on leads and use measures to determine a suspect’s location. Sometimes, it’s not prudent to reveal the source of leads or how you intend to find the suspect, particularly when it involves intel or technology,” he said.

Typically, law enforcement agencies will release quickly some information — often limited — on their social media accounts after an incident to alert the public of potential danger or request they stay out of the area during an investigation.

“It’s not usual to wait hours to release information about such a critical incident when they might want to increase public safety or use the public’s help in solving the crime,” said Aili Malm, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Cal State Long Beach.

As he stood outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Tuesday afternoon, Monterey Park police Chief Scott Wiese described arriving on scene the night of the shooting to “pure chaos.” He said there were dozens of witnesses and victims being treated by the Fire Department.

His officers were busy preserving the crime scene, stringing up yellow tape and setting up a perimeter in case the shooter was still in the area. They also were getting information out to surrounding law enforcement agencies, he said.

Within about 25 minutes, officers working the scene in Monterey Park began hearing about an armed man who had entered an Alhambra dance studio.


“We began to associate the suspect there with what we thought was the description of the suspect here,” Wiese said. “The weapon description was similar, and that’s when we started to put it all together.”

Wiese said there’s always a concern about the safety of the surrounding community with a potentially armed suspect on the loose. Officers — both from Monterey Park and other agencies — were canvassing the area looking for the gunman, he said.

“It was very fragmented,” he said. “We had two crime scenes, and trying to get that info and make sure it was precise and that it was information the public could actually use takes a little bit of time.

“By the time we could get the information out, we did,” he added.


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