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10 dead in shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., body found in van linked to suspect

ABC News 1/23/2023

The suspected gunman who allegedly shot 20 people, 10 fatally, at a dance studio near a Lunar New Year celebration in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park is possibly connected to a van law enforcement officers surrounded Sunday and forced their way into about 30 miles from where the massacre occurred, authorities said.

SWAT officers broke the driver's side window of the van around 1 p.m. local time, about two hours after police made a traffic stop in the Los Angeles County city of Torrance and heard a loud noise coming from inside the vehicle, sources told ABC News.

The suspect, whose name has not been released, is believed to have been inside a white cargo van, police officials told ABC station KABC. Live aerial footage showed the van sandwiched between two police armored vehicles, Torrance police officials told KABC.

Law enforcement officials told ABC News that when tactical teams accessed the van, they found a dead man believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They are currently working to determine a positive ID and whether or not he was the man being sought in connection with last night's mass shooting, the officials said.

Police use armored vehicles to surround a white cargo van, believed by law enforcement to be connected to the Monterey Park shooting suspect according to an ABC affiliate, at a parking lot in Torrance, Calif., Jan. 22, 2023 in a video screengrab. © Abc Affiliate KABC via Reuters Police use armored vehicles to surround a white cargo van, believed by law enforcement to be connected to the Monterey Park shooting suspect according to an ABC affiliate, at a parking lot in Torrance, Calif., Jan. 22, 2023 in a video screengrab. Law enforcement personnel are seen outside the site in Torrance, Calif., where the alleged suspect in the mass shooting in which 10 people were killed in Monterey Park, Calif. on Jan. 22, 2023. © Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images Law enforcement personnel are seen outside the site in Torrance, Calif., where the alleged suspect in the mass shooting in which 10 people were killed in Monterey Park, Calif. on Jan. 22, 2023. Map indicating the location where a gunman opened fire at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance studio following a Lunar New Year celebration. © Associated Press Map indicating the location where a gunman opened fire at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance studio following a Lunar New Year celebration.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said earlier it has not been confirmed that the suspect in the mass shooting was the suspect holed up inside the van in Torrance.

"We don't know," Luna said at a news conference Sunday afternoon as the incident in Torrance continued to unfold. "We believe there is a person inside of that vehicle. Could it be our suspect? Possibly."

When asked if the person inside the van could be dead, Luna said, "that is a possibility."

In addition to the armored police vehicles, the van was surrounded by numerous police officers, including SWAT members, many with their guns drawn and trained on the van.

A person from the crime lab takes photographs around the rear entrance of the location of a shooting that took place during a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, in Monterey Park, Calif., Jan. 22, 2023. © Mike Blake/Reuters A person from the crime lab takes photographs around the rear entrance of the location of a shooting that took place during a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, in Monterey Park, Calif., Jan. 22, 2023. Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., on Jan. 22, 2023. © Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images Investigators work at the scene of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., on Jan. 22, 2023.

Monterey Park shooting suspect's photo released

The standoff in Torrance came as the sheriff's department released surveillance images of the homicide suspect, saying he was wearing a beanie cap and glasses and is about 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds.

"He should be considered armed and dangerous," the sheriff's department said in a statement.

Some of those injured in the Monterey Park rampage were in critical condition, while others were reported as stable, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a news conference Sunday morning.

Investigators gather at a scene where a shooting took place in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. © Jae C. Hong/AP Investigators gather at a scene where a shooting took place in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023.

Luna said five women and five men were killed in the rampage.

The gunman was only described as an Asian male 30 to 50 years old, Luna said.

"We're going to use every resource available to us because we need to get this person off the street as soon as possible," Luna said.

'Everything is on the table'

Luna declined to comment on a possible motive, but said, "everything is on the table."

"We don't know that this was a hate crime as defined by law, but who walks into a dance hall and guns down 20 people?" Luna said.

MORE: 12 shot in Baton Rouge nightclub, police say

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting by his Homeland Security adviser, according to the White House, and the FBI has joined the investigation.

"Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in last night's deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park. I'm monitoring this situation closely as it develops, and urge the community to follow guidance from local officials and law enforcement in the hours ahead," Biden said in a statement.

In a written statement released later, Biden said that "Jill and I are thinking of those killed and injured in last night's deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park," adding "how deeply this attack has impacted the AAPI community."

"While there is still much we don't know about the motive in this senseless attack, we do know that many families are grieving tonight, or praying that their loved one will recover from their wounds," Biden's statement said, in part.

In early alerts sent to Washington, investigators said "they had no idea who the suspect was," Pierre Thomas, ABC News' chief justice correspondent, said on ABC's "This Week."

U.S. Attorney General ‎Merrick Garland has also been briefed on the shooting, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Monterey Park had been hosting the Monterey Park Lunar New Year Festival this weekend, marking the beginning of the Chinese lunar calendar. The annual two-day street festival is widely attended, with previous celebrations drawing as many as 100,000 daily visitors, according to the city. More than 65% of Monterey Park's about 60,000 residents identify as Asian American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Police patrol the scene along Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 21, 2023, where police are responding to reports of multiple people shot. © Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images Police patrol the scene along Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park, California, on Jan. 21, 2023, where police are responding to reports of multiple people shot.

The sheriff's department said the shooting erupted around 10:22 p.m. on West Garvey Avenue, near the downtown less than a block from where the festival was being held.

The gunman opened fire shortly after entering a dance hall, where people had been celebrating the holiday, police said. It was unclear what type of weapon he used, but Luna said detectives do not believe an assault weapon was involved.

Chaotic crime scene

Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese said his officers responded to reports of shots fired at the dance studio and described a chaotic scene with panicked people running out of the dance hall and gunshot victims lying in the parking lot.

Police in the nearby city of Alhambra were investigating an incident that also occurred at a dance studio, which might be connected to the shooting, Luna said.

Investigators gather at a scene where a shooting took place in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. © Jae C. Hong/AP Investigators gather at a scene where a shooting took place in Monterey Park, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023.

In the Alhambra incident, which occurred 17 minutes after the Monterey Park shooting, an Asian man entered the dance studio with a gun, and several people there wrestled the weapon away from him before he fled the scene. Luna said a white cargo van witnesses spotted at the Alhambra incident is a "van of interest" in the investigation.

The Los Angeles County sheriff later confirmed that investigators do now believe both scenes overnight are connected to the same suspect.

"To have this tragedy occur on Lunar New Year weekend, makes this especially painful," Alhambra Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez said in a Twitter post Sunday. "Monterey Park is home to one of the largest #AAPI communities in the country. This is a time when residents should be celebrating with family, friends and loved ones - not fearing gun violence."

In a statement Sunday morning, the city of Monterey Park clarified that the shooting did not occur at the Lunar New Year Festival but at the dance studio near the festival that was not connected to the festivities. Officials said Saturday's festival events were scheduled to finish at 9 p.m.

City officials said all festival activities for Sunday have been canceled.

"Even though the incident did not occur at the 2023 Lunar New Year Festival, an active investigation is currently underway and the area near and around the festival is affected. As a precaution and for the safety of everyone, the City regrets to announce the cancellation of the second day of the festival," city officials said in a statement.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said it would lead the investigation, after earlier saying it would assist Monterey Park Police. The FBI said it had responded to the scene to assist.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a statement on Twitter condemning the attack.

"Monterey Park should have had a night of joyful celebration of the Lunar New Year. Instead, they were the victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence," Newsom tweeted. "Our hearts mourn as we learn more about the devastating acts of last night. We are monitoring the situation closely."

ABC News' Vanessa Navarrete contributed to this report.

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