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Monterey Park Gunman’s Police Record Includes Concealed Weapon Arrest

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The 72-year-old gunman who opened fire on a Lunar New Year celebration at a Monterey Park dance studio, killing 11 and wounding 9 people, was arrested in 1990 after he told police he chased down a man who he claimed had robbed a San Gabriel liquor store, according to police reports obtained by LAMag.

The incident unfolded on the evening of Nov. 27, 1990, near George’s Liquor store in the Los Angeles County city. That night, local police received a 911 call from Huu Can Tran, who told them, “the little [sic] store had [sic] just been robbed,” the report reads. 

“He then stated he followed the suspect…a male Mexican, from the store to the bus stop,” the officer who responded to the scene wrote in his report. Noting that there had been no other calls about a robbery, he patted Tran down. 

“I could feel a hard object in his left jacket pocket,” the officer wrote.

Tran admitted it was a gun and from the man’s jacket, the officer pulled a .38-Special—a snub-nosed German-made revolver—loaded with hollow point live rounds, which in law enforcement circles are nicknamed “cop killer” bullets for their ability to pierce body armor. The officer bundled Tran into a police cruiser while a second San Gabriel police unit arrived at George’s Liquor, where the owner said a man “had stolen some beer,” and “another male Asian was chasing after him.”

Tran told police he had been passing the store while walking his dog. After the owner claimed she had been robbed, he ran back to his house and grabbed the .38. “I asked Tran what he was going to do with the gun and he stated, ‘I took the gun for protection,’” the report states.

Tran was charged with carrying a loaded firearm and carrying a concealed weapon. The outcome of that criminal case is unclear. But it would not be the only encounter Tran had with San Gabriel police in the 1990s.

In 1992, Tran had met a woman at a restaurant who he’d been dating on occasion, he told investigators, according to a report filed that year. “Tran further said [the woman] recently informed him she was married and was seeking a divorce.”

Tran told police that threats began coming. The cuckold’s sister, he said, called to inform him she was a Taiwanese gang member and that “if he continued to date [the woman] she would have one of her buddies kill him.” In early 1993, Tran called police again to say he found “49 loaded shotgun shells on his front lawn;” the woman’s family “had placed the ammunition there to scare him,” he told police. 

The report was taken seriously by San Gabriel detectives, who contacted the husband of the woman Tran claimed he had been dating. But his story unraveled, according to the report. 

The husband told detectives “he has been having marital problems with his wife…Tran and his wife have been seeing each other when he leaves the country on business.” The couple was trying to repair their marriage, the husband indicated, and this infuriated Tran, according to the report.

“Tran is the one who has been calling the house at all times of the night,” the husband said. Police concluded he “never threatened Tran nor does he plan on threatening Tran.”

With no evidence of wrongdoing, San Gabriel detectives closed the case. 

The couple at the center of Tran’s perceived threats lived in Torrance, the South Bay city where he died by suicide with a single shot to the head, 14 hours after he unleashed a fusillade of bullets from a semiautomatic pistol at the Star Ballroom and Dance Studio in Monterey Park where he’d once taught lessons and would frequent in the years before his rampage.

Tran attempted to enter a second dance hall in nearby Alhambra but was stopped by an employee who wrested the gun away from him. He was later spotted in Torrance; when local police attempted to pull him over after a short chase, he pulled into a strip mall parking lot and shot himself.

Before the mass murder, Tran had relocated to the desert community of Hemet, where investigators executed a search warrant to find stockpiled ammunition and a .308-caliber rifle, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said. 

The 11 slain victims Tran killed ranged in age from 57 to 76. Ten died inside the Star Ballroom. Another died later in the hospital.  

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