SAN GABRIEL, Calif. — The elderly gunman responsible for the Monterey Park ballroom massacre was out of step with other Asian immigrants who found joy and companionship at places like the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, former friends said.
Huu Can Tran, 72, was an angry loner who seemed to hold a grudge against the world, not just his ex-wife, said people he passed Tuesday.
“I think his whole life was falling apart,” said a man who used to rent an apartment from Tran and asked that his name not be used because he did not want to be associated with the gunman.
“He had no job, he sold his property, very few friends and I think he had no close friends,” the man said, adding that he spoke to Tran every day at the time. “No family, no children, no job, no money. He was desperate and desperate ”.
While police have had trouble finding a motive for the bloodshed, they speculated that Tran may have been shooting at his ex-wife when she stormed into the Star Ballroom on Saturday and opened fire. The former tenant said he doubts Tran was targeting her.
“They have been divorced for almost 20 years,” the friend said. “Her ex-wife also likes to dance, so they often bumped into each other at parties or events. I don’t think his ex-wife was the cause of his massacre.”
However, Tran often blamed his ex-wife for the demise of his trucking business. Records show that Tran registered a business called Tran’s Trucking in Monterey Park in 2002 and that it dissolved two years later.
“His ex-wife convinced him to close the business and he sold the truck,” the man said.
Tran killed himself as police approached his getaway van 12 hours after he fatally shot 11 people and wounded nine more at the Star Ballroom. He later invaded the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in nearby Alhambra, but 26-year-old Brandon Tsay disarmed him and fled.
Tran, the friend said, was also arguing with the ballroom patrons at both venues and especially with some of the dance instructors.
“He was always complaining that the instructors were talking bad about him or trying to do something bad to him,” the friend said. “I’m not really sure if those things were true, but he always complained. He thought those instructors weren’t friendly to him, he tried to kick him out of the group.”
The man said he had lived in an apartment complex owned by Tran for seven to nine years. He said they stopped speaking in 2015 when he moved out and Tran refused to return the man’s security deposit.
The dispute was resolved in small claims court, where the judge sided with the tenant, court records show.
Most recently, Tran lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Hemet, but previously called San Gabriel home. The largely Asian city is about a 10-minute drive from Monterey Park.
A former neighbor, who also asked not to be identified by name, said they lived across the street for about two decades on a modest street in a neighborhood that was once predominantly Italian and is now largely Asian and Latino.
Tran, the person said, was quiet and polite and mostly reserved. At the time, Tran called himself “Andy” and ran a carpet-cleaning business, sometimes cleaning his neighbors’ carpets for free, the former neighbor said.
Although not wealthy, Tran was able to afford an old Rolls-Royce that he kept parked in his driveway, the person said. He also recalled seeing a white pickup truck parked on the modest property, not unlike the one in which Tran died.
But her clearest memory of Tran was waking up 15 years ago to the sounds of Tran and a woman she knew only by sight arguing on the street.
“You could see the plates flying around,” the neighbor said. “Dishes were crashing into the street and he was yelling at her.”
And every weekend, Tran could be seen leaving his house dressed in his best clothes, the former neighbor said.
“He always went out dancing,” she said. “Otherwise, we didn’t see much of it.”
Tran’s last address was at The Lakes at Hemet West, a gated “active living community” for people 55 and older.
Police have been searching the property for clues since Sunday and have found no explanation for Tran’s turn toward violence.
“What led a madman to do this? We don’t know, but we intend to find out,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna previously said.
Tran was once arrested for illegal possession of a firearm in 1990, Luna said, but his record was otherwise clean.
He also contacted Hemet police this month, claiming his family tried to poison him 10 to 20 years ago. The allegation was never investigated, police said, because Tran never presented any evidence to support his claims.
Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Temple University in Philadelphia, said Tran doesn’t fit the typical profile of a mass shooter.
“We know from FBI data that the maximum age for violent crime in the US is around 19 or 20, and that has remained fairly constant over the years,” Steinberg said in a statement. . “So this seems to be a period of development where there is a higher risk of people committing violent acts.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit TalkingSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
Alicia Victoria Lozano reported from San Gabriel. Marlene Lenthang and Corky Siemaszko reported from New York City.