MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (AP) — The police chief of the California town where 20 people were shot — 11 fatally — in a ballroom has defended his decision not to warn the public for hours that a killer was at large, saying Wednesday he didn’t have enough information to effectively alert residents.

Monterey Park Chief Scott Wiese told The Associated Press that area police were alerted and it didn’t make sense to issue a warning at night to residents of the predominantly Asian city. American, even after learning that the suspect may have targeted a nearby dance club. after the massacre.

“I’m not going to send my agents door to door to wake people up and tell them we’re looking for an Asian guy in Monterey Park,” Wiese said. “It’s not going to do us any good.”

Filming at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio at 10:22 p.m. Saturday came barely an hour or so after tens of thousands of people attended Lunar New Year festivities in the city. The public was not notified of the mass shooting for five hours, raising questions about why an alert was not sent to area residents.

Huu Can Tran, 72, who attended the dance hall and believed himself to be an instructor, fired a semi-automatic submachine gun with a large capacity magazine, authorities said.

Tran fled in a white van before officers arrived at the scene of the chaotic carnage and about 20 minutes later entered another dance hall near the Alhambra, where an employee confronted and disarmed him during a brief struggle.

Chris Grollnek, an active shooter expert, said police should never have waited so long to warn the public of the possible threat posed by a gunman on the loose. The city had access to an automated alert system and even giving a little information would have been better than nothing.

“They should have spread the word sooner,” Grollnek said. “I think everyone is lucky he didn’t get to a third place.”

Wiese, who was sworn in as chief two days before Saturday’s shooting, said he quickly learned of the second incident at the Lai Lai Ballroom, but it wasn’t immediately clear the two were related.

Patrol officers from Monterey Park and Alhambra exchanged details of their two incidents, prompting investigators to search for a potential link, Wiese said.

“We put this together pretty quickly, but we still had very limited information,” he said.

Wiese said they were gathering information from around 40 witnesses – many of whom did not speak English – and did not want to spread incorrect information.

The first press conference on the shooting was held Sunday morning by a captain from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Several hours later, Tran was found dead in his van from a self-inflicted gunshot, authorities said. A handgun was found in the vehicle.

The killings during what should have been joyful Lunar New Year celebrations struck fear into Asian American communities that were already grappling with heightened hatred and violence against them.

Less than 48 hours later, a Northern California gunman shot and killed eight more farm workers – killing seven people – at mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay. The shooter was of Chinese descent and most of the victims were Asian.

Outside the locked gates of Star Dance Studio on Wednesday, a memorial continued to rise with mounds of flowers and balloons. Red roses and tags were available for mourners to pick up and leave messages. One of them said: “May your PASSION for dance continue. And may you all rest in peace. Our hearts are hurting.

Hearts have been scribbled in pink and red chalk in the parking lot where the first victim was killed in his car.

“Monterey Park, I hope you know how much you are loved,” read one post.

Large photos of seven of the victims were propped up and framed in white roses. Flowers framed the names of the other four dead.

“It’s shocking to see it on the news,” said Kiku Yamada, 74, who only knew the studio from its reputation in dance circles. “Being here is different.”

“This is where we go to eat,” said his son, Ryan Yamada. “We can’t just pretend it’s other people’s problem.”

The pope was among those who offered condolences to the injured and the families who lost loved ones.

Pope Francis “joins the whole community in commending the souls of those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God and he implores the divine gifts of healing and consolation for the wounded and bereaved,” it reads. in a message the Vatican sent to Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gomez.

Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to meet with families of the victims in Monterey Park later Wednesday.

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Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporter Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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