California shooting: Cops took 5 hours to warn dance hall shooter was loose

Lost following the Monterey ParkCalifornia, ballroom shot which left 11 people dead is an alarming fact: it took authorities five hours to alert the public that the shooter was on the loose.
Even after the 72-year-old shooter brought a submachine gun-like weapon to another nearby dance hall about half an hour later, a potential attack thwarted by a hero who grabbed the weapon and chased the man away, this would be hours longer before police held a press conference to announce the suspect was still at large.
Experts say the weekend mass shooting that has struck fear into Asian American communities in the Los Angeles area highlights the lack of national standards for informing the public and the need for a system of Aggressive Alert – similar to Amber Alerts – which would immediately trigger cell phone alarms in surrounding areas and display warnings on road signs.
“Five hours is kind of ridiculous,” said Chris Grollnek, an expert in active-fire tactics and a retired police officer and SWAT team member. “It’s going to be a really good case study. Why five hours?
Brian Higgins, former SWAT team commander and police chief for Bergen County, New Jersey, said an alert should have been raised immediately and that half an hour between the two incidents was more than enough to do so.
“What took so long?” said Higgins, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Maybe they were still doing their investigation. Maybe they didn’t have a good idea of ​​what they had. But if they didn’t know, they should have sinned by err on the side of caution and turn that off.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Monday his department was “strategic” in its decision to release information, but would look into what happened.
“When we started releasing public information, the priority was to get this person into custody,” Luna said. “In the end, it worked. We’ll go back and review it like we always do. No one is as critical as we are of what worked and specifically what didn’t, and assess that, and see what the expectation was to determine what the public risk was at that time.”
A timeline of events shows that police remained silent for hours not only that a shooter was on the loose, but that a shooting had taken place, with information from scanners and police sources police rather than official channels. The delays came just hours after tens of thousands of revelers hit the streets of the heavily Asian American city for a Lunar New Year celebration.
Authorities said the first call about the Star Ballroom Dance Studio shooting came in at 10:22 p.m. local time Saturday, and officers responded within three minutes. Monterey Park Police said it took several minutes for officers – several of whom were force recruits – to assess the chaotic scene and search for the shooter, who had already fled.
About 20 minutes after the first shot, at 10:44 a.m., the shooter who would later be identified as Huu Can Tran entered the Lai Lai ballroom about 4.8 kilometers from the Alhambra, where he was was confronted in the lobby by 26-year-old Brandon Tsay.
Tsay, a computer coder who helps run the dance hall for his family, told The New York Times he was unaware of the previous shooting in Monterey Park when he lunged at the man and began to struggle to remove the gun from his hands. Tsay eventually commandeered the gun, ordered him to “Come on, get the hell out of here!” and watched him drive off in a white van.
More than an hour later, at 11:53 p.m., news broke that the shooter was still at large – not from an official source, but from media monitoring police chatter on a scanner. “The suspect remains at large according to PD on scene,” RMG News tweeted.
The Associated Press began calling the Monterey Park Police and Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shortly before the RMG News alert, and continued to call for nearly three hours. Monterey Park police never responded. A sheriff’s official confirmed there were nine dead shortly before 2:36 a.m. Sunday when the AP issued an alert.
At 2:49 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Office issued a press advisory confirming the deaths and adding that the suspect was a male. There was still no mention that he was at large.
Finally, just after 3:30 a.m., five hours after the shooting, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Captain Andrew Meyer held a press conference to announce that the death toll then stood at 10 and for the first time in publicly stating “the suspect has fled the scene and remains outstanding.”
At noon on Sunday, police 30 miles (48 kilometers) in Torrance stormed a mall parking lot and surrounded a white van matching the description of the one Tran was last seen driving. After approaching cautiously, SWAT teams burst in at 1 p.m. and found Tran dead in the driver’s seat with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police are still investigating the motive for the murders.
Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who led the agency’s active shooter program, acknowledged that such mass shooting cases can be confusing and hectic and that “the first priority is always the victims and the survivors”.
But, she said, “Communication with the public is just as important. Typically, when law enforcement thinks there is an additional threat to the public or is looking for a suspect, they notify the audience”.
Vibrant smartphone warnings of everything from missing children and the elderly to impending snow squalls and flash floods have become commonplace over the past decade. More than 1,600 federal, state and local jurisdictions — including Los Angeles County — are equipped to send such cellphone alerts through the federally funded Integrated Public Alerting and Warning System, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We have the technology,” said former FBI agent Gregory Shaffer, now the head of a Dallas-based risk management and tactical training firm. “It’s just not used.”
A House bill last year would have established an active shooter alert network to replace the messy patchwork of alert systems used by thousands of towns and cities that is plagued by messaging delays and at a low enrollment rate. He died in the Senate, but one of his sponsors, U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, said late Monday he intended to reintroduce the legislation.
“I think the fact that people have been left behind in this situation for a very long time speaks to the need for the bill,” Thompson said. “People need to be warned.”

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