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MONTEREY PARK, Calif., Jan 24 (Reuters) – Just two days after a gunman killed 11 people at a Los Angeles-area dance studio, seven more victims were shot dead in a farming area near San Francisco as California suffered one of its worst the bloody outbreaks of mass gun violence for decades.
Authorities said they have not identified a motive in either case. The attacks seemed particularly puzzling in part because the suspects in each were men of retirement age, much older than is typical for the perpetrators of deadly mass shootings that have become a numbing routine in the United States.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was visiting wounded survivors of Saturday night’s massacre in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park when he was informed of Monday’s killings in Northern California.
“Tragedy after tragedy,” Newsom wrote on Twitter.
Otherwise, the back-to-back shooting didn’t seem to have much in common.
The latest shooting carnage hit the coastal city Half Moon Bayabout 30 miles south of San Francisco, where a gunman opened fire on groups of farm workers at two locations about a mile apart, leaving a total of seven dead and one seriously wounded, then fled.
The accused shooter, identified as Chunli Zhao, 67, was taken into custody a short time later after he was found sitting in his vehicle parked outside the sheriff’s station where authorities say he had come to surrender.
A semi-automatic handgun was found in his car, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said at an evening news conference.
Corpus said the suspect, who has been “fully cooperative” with investigators since his arrest, worked at one of the two crime scenes. She describes the sites as agricultural “nurseries” where some of the workers also lived. Local media reports that one location is a mushroom farm.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday that he had been briefed by his homeland security team about the shooting in Half Moon Bay and had directed his administration to ensure that local authorities have support from the federal government.
“Even as we await further details about these shootings, we know that the scourge of gun violence in America demands tougher action,” he said, calling on Congress to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.
In a separate incident in the Bay Area Monday night that drew far less attention, one person was killed and seven wounded in a “shooting between multiple individuals” in Oakland, police said, in circumstances that suggested a case of gang violence. Police provided few details but said all surviving victims were taken to area hospitals.
News of the Half Moon Bay massacre comes as police work their second full day of investigating the shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, just east of downtown Los Angeles, where a gunman shot 11 people. Nine others were injured.
Authorities said the suspect, Huu Canh TranThe 72-year-old drove to a neighboring town and broke into a second dance hall, but was confronted by the club’s operator, who wrestled the weapon away during a brief scuffle.
Tran, himself a longtime patron of the Star Ballroom, catering mostly to older dance lovers, ran away again and disappeared overnight.
He shot himself in his parked getaway vehicle, a cargo van, on Sunday morning, about 12 hours into his rampage, as police surrounded him in the city of Torrance, south of Los Angeles, authorities said.
Saturday’s violence took place in the middle of a Celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, a center of Southern California’s Asian-American community, which initially raised concerns that the attack may have been racially motivated. The second day of the event was cancelled.
It ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in Los Angeles County, according to Hilda Solis, a member of the county Board of Supervisors.
By comparison, the 1984 massacre of 21 people at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Diego was the largest loss of life from a single shooting incident on record in California.
The two most recent shootings were also notable for the ages of the suspects, one in his late 60s, another in his early 70s.
A database of 185 mass shootings between 1966 and 2022 maintained by the nonprofit Violence Project includes only one by a person 70 or older — a retired coal miner who killed five people in Kentucky in 1981.
Confirming the firepower unleashed at the Monterey Park ballroom, investigators collected 42 shell casings and a large ammunition magazine from the scene, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters Monday.
He said a search of the suspect’s mobile home in a gated senior community in the town of Hemet, 80 miles east of Los Angeles, turned up a rifle, electronic devices and items “that lead us to believe the suspect was homemade prepared’ weapon silencers. Police also seized hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the residence and a handgun from the suspect’s vehicle.
Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Weese said investigators are looking into unconfirmed reports that the violence may have been fueled by jealousy or relationship issues.
Adam Hood, who rented a home from Tran in the Los Angeles area, told Reuters his landlord loved ballroom dancing and was a regular at the Star Ballroom, although he complained that others there talked behind his back.
“He was distrustful of people in the studio, angry and mistrustful. I think he just had enough,” Hood said.
Reporting by Tim Reid in Monterey Park and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Rich McKay, Gabriela Borter, Brendan O’Brien, Brad Brooks, Jonathan Allen, Joseph Ax, Dan Whitcomb and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Chizu Nomiyama
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