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'What drove a madman to do this?' Domestic violence probed in Monterey Park shooting

Sonja Sharp and Katie Licari, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Hours before Monterey Park shooter Huu Can Tran was found slumped over the steering wheel of his white cargo van, before his name was released or his victims identified, rumors swirled about his motive.

Was it jealousy that drove the 72-year-old Tran to storm Star Ballroom Dance Studio on the eve of Lunar New Year, killing 11 and injuring nine more? Had he been hunting his ex-wife when he was disarmed at Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra?

“What drove a madman to do this?” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “We don’t know. But we intend to find out.”

On Tuesday, Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese admitted they might never know.

“The biggest question that our community has is motive — everybody wants to know why,” Wiese said at a news conference outside Star Ballroom on Tuesday. “I want to know why, I know our City Council and elected officials want to know why. The public wants to know why. I just don’t know if we’ll get that answer.”

A clear answer may never emerge. But as mass shootings grow increasingly common, data show that an overwhelming majority have a connection to domestic violence.


That’s because “individuals who are willing to hurt those closest to them are more likely to hurt other people in the future,” said Lisa Geller, director of state affairs at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions and a scholar of mass shootings.

Geller’s 2021 study showed that almost 60% of mass shooters targeted a current or former partner in their attacks — women who shared their surnames, their house keys, their kids. Still more had a history of domestic abuse. On average, such assailants killed more people and were more likely to take their own lives than other mass shooters.

“In my mind, domestic violence is just the gateway to everything,” said Orchid Pusey, executive director of the Asian Women’s Shelter in San Francisco. “It’s the gateway to all the other forms of private and public violence.”

Reports of domestic violence surged in 2020, and have been on the rise in Los Angeles and across California ever since. Yet domestic violence reporting among Asian Angelenos remains far lower than for other groups, data show. Those who work with survivors and perpetrators in California’s Asian American Pacific Islander communities say those figures belie the struggle they see behind closed doors.


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