It took police 5 hours to warn that the Monterey Dance Hall shooter was loose

A timeline of events shows police remained silent for hours not only that a gunman was at large but that a shooting had even taken place, with information leaking from police scanners and sources rather than official channels. The delays came just hours after tens of thousands of revelers took to the streets of the heavily Asian-American city to celebrate the Lunar New Year.


Authorities said the first call about the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio came in at 10:22 p.m. LA time on Saturday and officers responded within three minutes. Monterey Park Police said it took officers several minutes – some of whom were newcomers to the force – to assess the chaotic scene and search for the gunman, who had already fled.

About 20 minutes after the initial shooting, at 10:44 p.m., the gunman, who would later be identified as Huu Can Tran, marched to the Lai Lai ballroom in the Alhambra, about 3 miles away, where he was met in the lobby by the 26-year-old Brandon was confronted by Tsay.

Tsay, a computer programmer who helps run the dance hall for his family, shared The New York Times He was unaware of the previous Monterey Park shooting as he lunged at the man, struggling to get the gun out of his hands. Tsay eventually confiscated the gun and ordered him, “Go, get out of here!” and watched as he drove away in a white van.

More than an hour later, at 11:53 p.m., word broke that the gunman was still at large – not from an official source but from a media outlet that monitored police gossip on a scanner. “The suspect is still at large, according to the PD at the scene,” RMG News tweeted.


The Associated Press began calling the Monterey Park police and fire department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shortly before the RMG News alert, calling for nearly three hours. The Monterey Park police never responded. A sheriff’s officer confirmed to the AP that there were nine deaths just before 2:36 a.m. Sunday, when the AP issued an alert.

At 2:49 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Office issued a news report confirming the deaths and adding that the suspect was male. There was still no mention that he was at large.

Finally, just after 3:30 a.m., five hours after the shooting, Los Angeles County Sheriff-Captain Andrew Meyer held a press conference to announce that the death toll was 10 at the time, and declared publicly for the first time : “The suspect has fled the scene of the crime and is still pending”.

On Sunday afternoon, police in Torrance, 30 miles away, stormed into a shopping center parking lot and surrounded a white van matching the description of the one Tran had last seen. After approaching cautiously, SWAT teams broke in at 1 p.m. to find Tran dead in the driver’s seat with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.


Police are still investigating a motive for the killings.

Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who ran the agency’s active shooter program, acknowledged that such mass shootings can be confusing and hectic, and that “the victims and survivors always come first.”

But, she said, “Communicating with the public is just as important. Generally, if law enforcement believes there is an additional threat to the public, or are looking for a suspect, they notify the public.”

Vibrating smartphone alerts on everything from missing children and elderly people to impending snow gusts and flash floods have become commonplace over the past decade. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 1,600 federal, state, and local governments — including Los Angeles County — are equipped to send such cellphone alerts through the federally funded integrated public alert and warning system.

“We have the technology,” said former FBI agent Gregory Shaffer, now head of a Dallas-based risk management and tactical training firm. “It’s just not being used.”

A House bill last year would have set up an Active Shooter Alert Network to replace the messy patchwork of alert systems used by thousands of cities and towns, plagued by delays in message delivery and low sign-ups. It died in the Senate, but one of its sponsors, Congressman Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, said Monday he intended to reintroduce the legislation.

“I think the fact that people have been let down in this situation for an awfully long time speaks to the need for the bill,” Thompson said. “People need to be warned”

AP It took police 5 hours to warn that the Monterey Dance Hall shooter was loose

Callan Tansill

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