Monterey Park gunman is oldest mass shooting suspect for five decades

Two mass shootings in three days by men over 65 buck a recent trend of suspected killers getting younger, experts say

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 25 January 2023 01:17 GMT
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The 72-year-old gunman who killed 11 people at a Monterey Park dance studio on Saturday is the oldest mass shooter in more than five decades, according to a non-profit that tracks gun violence.

Huu Can Tran has been identified by authorities as the sole suspect in the shooting in the majority Asian American suburb of Los Angeles that critically wounded several other victims and brought terror to Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.

James Densley, president and co-founder of the Violence Project, which tracks shootings involving four or more victims, told The Independent that Tran was the oldest mass shooting suspect on their database, which dates back to 1966.

Only two other mass shootings in recent memory were carried out by men in their 70s.

The first occurred in 1981, when 70-year-old retired miner William Bevins shot dead five people in Kentucky.

Then in June 2022, Robert Findlay Smith was charged with killing three people during a potluck dinner at the St Stephens Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

With California still grieving the Monterey Park tragedy, authorities say 67-year-old Chunli Zhao shot dead seven coworkers at two agricultural businesses in Half Moon Bay on Monday.

The two horror incidents buck recent data trends that showed mass shooting suspects were getting younger.

Dr Densley told The Independent that the median age of those involved in non-domestic or gang-related mass shootings was 32.

The average suspect age varies depending on the setting, Dr Densly added.

Ages of mass shooters in public locations, not including domestic or gang-related killings, from 1966 to 2022
Ages of mass shooters in public locations, not including domestic or gang-related killings, from 1966 to 2022 (The Violence Project)

Jillian Peterson, a co-founder of the Violence Project, told the New York Times last year that the data points to two age clusters of shooters.

“People in their 40s who commit workplace type shootings, and a very big cluster of young people — 18, 19, 20, 21 — who seem to get caught up in the social contagion of killing,” she said.

Police say Tran, of Hemet, Riverside County, stockpiled ammunition and weapons before going to the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park and opening fire.

He then drove to the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra where a heroic staff member wrestled a 9-millimeter semi-automatic MAC-10 assault weapon away from him.

Tran later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a stand-off with police in Torrance, about 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park.

While a motive is still under investigation, a Hemet Police Department told reporters that Tran had recently complained that his family had tried to poison him several decades ago.

Tran had also lodged allegations of fraud and theft against his family during visits with police on 7 and 9 January, according to Helmet police.

Tran hadn’t followed up on a promise to return with proof to support his allegations, police said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters on Monday that all of the victims were over the age of 50.

While mass shooters aged 60 and over are relatively rare, a notable exception was the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed 60 and wounded more than 1,000 people.

Las Vegas remains the deadliest mass shooting committed by a single gunman in US history.

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