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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

Peter Donald, a former assistant police commissioner with the New York Police Department and founder of communications agency Arena, said the public can provide vital leads in an investigation.

During the 2016 Chelsea bombing investigation, authorities got a tip that led to the suspect’s arrest about 90 minutes after the NYPD released his picture and description, Donald said.

“Communicating clearly with the public is a critical part of policing,” Donald said, adding that at NYPD, “it was about communicating very timely information even if it is preliminary.”

The Sheriff’s Department assess the investigation — as is typical — Luna said, to determine “what worked and specifically what didn’t work” in the early hours of the probe and in terms of putting out information.

Investigators continue to work to try to understand what pushed Tran to violence, focusing on his frequent attendance at the two dance studios and the possibility he was driven by jealousy or some other personal resentment, according to law enforcement sources.

Law enforcement sources also believe Tran was having unspecified emotional problems that had been getting worse in the weeks before the shooting.

Court documents and accounts from neighbors and friends offer a fragmented portrait of the gunman, a lonely, embittered man for whom dancing may have offered a rare reprieve from an otherwise empty life.

Before Tran moved to Hemet, he lived for many years in a small white stucco home in San Gabriel with bars over the doors and windows and an orange tree in the front yard.


Former neighbor Tony Castaneda, who lived next to Tran, recalled him being a quiet man. Castaneda and his brother referred to him as “Tango Andy,” a nickname associated with his dressing up in a suit on weekends to go out dancing.

But Castaneda also remembered a more disturbing incident about 14 or 15 years ago when sounds of anger coming from Tran’s home filled the quiet neighborhood.

“It was 3 a.m., and he had an altercation with a woman. I don’t know if it was physical or not, but he threw her out of the house, and as she was leaving, he threw a bunch of dishware at her out in the street. Created all kinds of noise and woke up the neighborhood,” Castaneda said.

A former friend of Tran, who was also his tenant for years and ended up suing him in 2014 when Tran refused to fully return his security deposit, described Tran as a loner who rarely had visitors and was typically alone except when he was dancing at Star or the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, where he drove after the shooting.

“I think his life was so miserable and desperate that he chose that day to end his life, and meanwhile, he wanted to get people he didn’t like or hated to go with him,” the man said.


(Los Angeles Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.)

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