California shooting: Police took 5 hours to warn dance hall shooter was loose – Times of India

Lost in the aftermath of the Monterey ParkCalifornia, ballroom dance hall shooting that 11 people were killed is an alarming fact: it took authorities five hours to alert the public that the gunman was on the loose.
Even after the 72-year-old gunman brought a submachine gun-like weapon to another nearby dance hall about half an hour later, foiling a possible attack by a hero who seized the weapon and chased the man away, it would be hours before police held a press conference to announce that the suspect was still at large.
Experts say the weekend mass shooting that sparked fear in Asian-American communities in Los Angeles highlights the lack of national standards for informing the public, and the need for an aggressive warning system – similar to Amber warnings – that could act immediately sound alarms on cell phones in surrounding areas and post warnings on highway signs.
“Five hours is kind of ridiculous,” said Chris Grollnek, an expert on active-shooter tactics and a retired police officer and SWAT team member. “This is going to be a really good case study. Why five hours?’
Brian Higgins, a former SWAT team commander and police chief in Bergen County, New Jersey, said an alarm should have gone off right away and that half an hour between the two incidents was more than enough time for it to do so.
“Why did it take so long?” said Higgins, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Maybe they were still doing their research. Maybe they didn’t have a good idea of ​​what they had. But if they didn’t know, they should have played it safe and put it out there.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Monday his department was “strategic” in its decision to release information, but would review what happened.
“When we started distributing public information, the priority was to take this person into custody,” said Luna. “Eventually it worked. We’ll go back and look at it like we always do. No one is as critical as ourselves as to what worked and specifically what didn’t work, and evaluate that, and see how long the wait was to determine what the public risk was was at that time.”
A timeline of events shows that police remained silent for hours not only about a gunman walking free, but whether a shooting had taken place at all, with information trickling out of police scanners and sources rather than official channels. The delays came just hours after tens of thousands of revelers took to 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 on Saturday, and officers responded within three minutes. The Monterey Park Police Department said it took several minutes for officers — several of whom were rookies on the force — to assess the chaotic scene and search for the gunman, who had already fled.
About 20 minutes after the initial shooting, at 10:44 a.m., the gunman, who would later be identified as Huu Can Tran, marched into the Lai Lai Ballroom, about 3 miles away in the Alhambra, where he was confronted in the lobby by 26 year old Brandon Tsay.
Tsay, a computer programmer who helps run the dance hall for his family, told The New York Times that he was unaware of the earlier shooting in Monterey Park when he lunged at the man and began to struggle to remove the gun from his body. get hands. Tsay finally took the weapon and ordered him, “Go, get out of here!” and watched him drive off in a white van.
More than an hour later, at 11:53 p.m., word came that the gunman was still at large — not from an official source, but from a media outlet that tracked police chatter on a scanner. “The suspect is still at large, according to police at the 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 calling for nearly three hours. The Monterey Park Police Department never responded. A sheriff’s official confirmed nine deaths shortly before 2:36 a.m. Sunday, when the AP issued a warning.
At 2:49 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau issued a news report confirming the fatalities and adding that the suspect was male. There was still no talk of him walking free.
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 reached 10 and for the first time publicly stated “the suspect fled the scene and remains excellent.”
Around noon Sunday, police swarmed into a comic book store parking lot 30 miles away in Torrance and surrounded a white van that matched the description of the one Tran last saw driving. After carefully approaching, SWAT teams broke in at 1:00 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 headed the agency’s active shooting program, acknowledged that such mass shooting cases can be confusing and frantic and that “the first priority is always the victims and survivors.”
But, she said, “communicating with the public is equally important. Generally, when law enforcement thinks there is an additional threat to the public or is looking for a suspect, they notify the public.”
Vibrating smartphone alerts about everything from missing children and seniors to impending snowstorms 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 cell phone alerts through the federally funded Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We have the technology,” said former FBI agent Gregory Shaffer, now head of a Dallas-based risk management and tactical training firm. “It’s just not being used.”
A bill last year would have created an Active Shooter Alert Network to replace the messy patchwork of alert systems used by thousands of towns and cities plagued by message delays and low signups. It died in the Senate, but one of its sponsors, U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California, said late Monday that he plans to reintroduce the legislation.
“I think the fact that people have been left in the lurch for an awful long time in this situation makes the need for the bill clear,” Thompson said. “People need to be warned.”

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