A man shot dead 10 people and injured at least 10 others at a ballroom dance hall during a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration near Los Angeles before fleeing the scene, US police said.
The attacker, still at large 12 hours after the attack in the city of Monterey Park, was believed to be an Asian man between 30 and 50 years old based on descriptions from eyewitnesses, law enforcement officials in California said.
“We need to get this person off the street as soon as possible,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a news conference yesterday in Monterey Park, home to one of the largest Asian American communities in the US.
Earlier, the sheriff’s department said it did not know whether the attack was racially motivated. Five of the victims were male and five were female, Luna said. Their identities have not been made public.
Luna later released images of the suspect apparently taken from surveillance camera footage showing him wearing spectacles, dressed in a dark jacket and a dark beanie hat with white stripes. The sheriff’s department said it was releasing the images in an attempt to identify the suspect and that he should be considered ‘armed and dangerous’.
Police in Torrance, California, were using armoured vehicles to surround a white cargo van believed to be connected to the shooting suspect, an ABC News affiliate reported, broadcasting aerial video of the scene.
Officials were investigating whether an incident at another dance venue in the neighbouring city of Alhambra about 20 minutes later on Saturday night was connected with the massacre in Monterey Park. At the second venue, witnesses said an Asian man walked in holding a gun that patrons were able to grab. No one was shot and the man fled, Luna said.
When police arrived at the Monterey Park ballroom, people were ‘pouring out of the location screaming’, department captain Andrew Meyer said.
At least 10 people were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries and at least one was in critical condition. Police have not said what kind of gun was used in the attack.
The shooting took place after 10pm local time around the location of a two-day Chinese Lunar New Year celebration where many streets are closed for festivities that draw thousands of people from across Southern California. Police said the celebrations planned for yesterday were cancelled.
Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, described the city of about 60,000 people as a quiet, peaceful, beautiful place.