LOS ANGELES – A gunman opened fire, killing 10 and wounding 10 on Saturday, amid Lunar New Year celebrations in the Southern California enclave of Monterey Park, Asia said. of the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
It was unclear what the motive was behind the massacre, and the suspect was on the run, Capt. Andrew Meyer from the department’s homicide division said at a press conference earlier Sunday.
Monterey Police Department officers first responded to a ballroom after reports of a shooting came in at 10:22 p.m. local time Saturday, Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said Sunday morning. People rushed out of the hall as the officers got down to business.
Ten people were killed on the spot, and another 10 people were transported to local hospitals in conditions ranging from stable to critical, Luna said. Four of the injured were treated at LAC + USC Medical Center, the hospital confirmed.
Authorities were still working to identify the victims, but Luna said five were women and five were men.
The suspected killer could be an Asian man between the ages of 30 and 50, Luna said, cautioning that it was still a preliminary description.
“We got different descriptions of a suspect,” Luna said. “So when I say it’s preliminary, please again, be patient with us.”
When asked if the case was being investigated as a hate crime, Luna told reporters that “everything is on the table.”
“We don’t know if it’s specifically a hate crime defined by law, but walking into a dance hall and shooting 20 people,” Luna said. “The description we have now is of an Asian male. Does it matter? I don’t know, I can tell you that everything is on the table.”
Police and fire units could be seen in the area in a video posted on social media. Others showed the victims being transferred in ambulances.
Officials are investigating another incident in the nearby city of Alhambra to see if it was connected.
About 20 minutes after the shooting in Monterey Park, an Asian male suspect entered a ballroom in Alhambra with a firearm, Luna said. People in the hall struggled with the gun to get away from the suspect and he left in a white van.
“Are they connected? Honestly, we don’t know the answer to that,” Luna said.
The shooting came after thousands of people had gathered for a Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park, a small town of about 60,000, about two-thirds of them Asian Americans. It is about 10 miles east of Los Angeles.
Monterey Park’s neighboring community, Alhambra, is more than 50% Asian American.
The two-day event features “food booths with all kinds of delicious items, amusement rides, and lots of live entertainment,” according to the city’s website.
Previous festivals have drawn crowds of more than 100,000 visitors per day, the city’s website said, drawing crowds from all over the Southern California area.
Meyer said police “will look at every angle as far as whether or not it was a hate crime,” but said it was too early in the investigation to know whether the attack was racially motivated.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was closely monitoring the shooting in a tweet Sunday morning. His office said it was working with local law enforcement in response.
“Monterey Park should have a night of joyous Lunar New Year celebration,” Newsom said. “Instead, they were victims of a horrific and heartless act of gun violence.”
President Biden expressed his condolences for the victims in a statement released Sunday morning and said residents should follow official guidance.
“Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in last night’s deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park,” Biden. he tweeted.
“I am monitoring this situation closely as it develops, and urge the community to follow the lead of local officials and law enforcement in the coming hours.” Department told reporters.
Representative Judy Chu, D-Calif., offered her condolences to the community during the news conference. Chu not only represents the district, but has lived in Monterey Park for 37 years and served as the city’s mayor after being elected in 1990.
“It’s horrible that such a thing could happen at a time of celebration for so many in the AAPI community and the Asian community around the world,” Chu said. “This is a time to be with family to celebrate and yet this has ripped a hole in all of our hearts.”
The mass shooting stunned those familiar with the normally quiet area.
Simu Liu, who plays the warrior Shang-Chi in Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, he tweeted that he was “shocked and saddened” by the incident.
“It’s home to Asian American families, parents, grandparents, siblings, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles. All of them were waiting to celebrate the New Year this weekend,” he said.
The last violence comes two months later five people were killed in a Colorado Springs nightclub.
Linda Takahashi reported from Los Angeles, Cristian Santana and Doha Madani from New York and Leila Sackur from London.
This article was originally published in NBCNews.com