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The latest on the Monterey Park mass shooting


We're going to begin tonight in Monterey Park, Calif. Authorities say that last night, a man opened fire at a popular dance hall, killing 10 people and wounding others. The shooting took place after a Lunar New Year celebration, a time that's usually marked by joy and fun. Instead, the predominantly Asian city, which is just outside of Los Angeles, is in mourning tonight. The shooting is still being investigated, and NPR's Mandalit del Barco is there and is with us on the line now to tell us more. Mandalit, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: So what can you tell us about what happened last night?

DEL BARCO: Well, around 10:20 last night, the 911 call came in. LA County Sheriff Robert Luna said within minutes, officers responded because the Monterey Park police were wrapping up covering the first day of the Lunar New Year's festival. They described arriving as people were streaming out of the ballroom. We know that 10 people were killed - five men, five women - and 10 more were injured. As you can tell, there's just still a lot we don't know.

MARTIN: But authorities did publish a photograph of a suspect. What can you tell us about that person?

DEL BARCO: Yeah, they did not want to name the suspect yet, but - and this is obviously an investigation that's just beginning. But during a press conference, the sheriff described the suspect as an Asian man between 30 and 50 years old, though he looked to be more in his 50s in three surveillance photos that they did release.

MARTIN: And is there any - are the authorities giving us any information about what they consider to be a possible motive?

DEL BARCO: No. In fact, the sheriff said that they're not ruling anything out, and he also wouldn't identify the weapon. But he did say it was not a high-powered military-style assault weapon. There's chatter that this may have been a domestic dispute with someone inside the ballroom and therefore not necessarily a hate crime. They're releasing very little information, including questions about another incident that happened 30 minutes after the Monterey Park shootings, this time in nearby Alhambra. No one was killed, but there are reports that an Asian man went into a dance studio with a gun. People inside wrestled the gun away, and the man fled in a white cargo van. This afternoon, tactical units surrounded a vehicle that was similar to that in Torrance, across town. There was a standoff for hours, and then the SWAT teams breached or broke into the van. And we understand there was a body inside. This story is still developing, though, Michel.

MARTIN: So, yes, some very dramatic footage that a lot of people have seen. But I hear what you're saying is that despite the fact that many people have seen this footage, we're not really sure whether all the details match up to the incidents that you're describing.


MARTIN: So Monterey Park is home, as we said, to a large Asian American community. This event happened right in the middle of the Lunar New Year celebration. Is there any indication that race was a factor here?

DEL BARCO: Well, we really don't know the motive, but people here are understandably very shocked. The attack came at the end of the day of celebration. I went to the street outside of the ballroom half a block away. People were still gathered outside the police tape. And this is where I found Mike Chin.

MIKE CHIN: It's bad. It's a tragedy for the community, for sure. Yeah, and it happened in - this timing. This the Chinese New Year, so it's very, very bad.

DEL BARCO: Yeah, the timing. So at a nearby Taoist temple, we found 27-year-old Michelle Lee. She was with her parents and grandparents. Here's what she said.

MICHELLE LEE: You know, every time there's, like, things that, you know, I may want to go to, like, I do have to keep in the back of my mind that, you know, like, what if, you know someone...

DEL BARCO: Yeah. In the downtown area around the corner from the ballroom, the outdoor festival for the Year of the Water Rabbit was supposed to be continuing today. But in light of the shooting, it was understandably canceled. The vendors' booths were being taken down, and it's a very sad end to a very sad day here.

MARTIN: Very sad indeed. That's NPR's Mandalit del Barco in Monterey Park, Calif. Mandalit, thank you.

DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
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