CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Mass shooter’s age – 72 – makes California massacre harder to unravel

Jan 23, 2023, 5:10 PM
mass shooter...
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Andre Bing, a Walmart manager, opened fire on fellow employees in the break room of the Virginia store, killing six people in the country’s second high-profile mass shooting in four days, police and witnesses said Wednesday. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)
(Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — The average age of a mass shooter in the United States is 33.2 years old, according to the Mass Shooting Factsheet. A 72-year-old man killed 11 people in California over the weekend, then took his own life. 

John Huber, former US Attorney for the District of Utah, joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss if there is an accurate method for authorities to identify potential mass shooters before they kill.

“What stood out to me so much, Deb, was that the man’s age was 72 years old,” Dave noted.

“Jumped off the page,” Debbie replied. “What is going on in your life that this is how it ends?”

Huber agreed that the age of the gunman and his victims make the latest mass shooting difficult to ascertain the motivation. 

“For us as Americans, when we hear this almost monthly announcement of the latest mass shooting, we try to put it in a box to better understand it,” Huber said. “Sometimes [mass shootings are motivated by] hatred for gender identity or sexual orientation. Sometimes it’s for racial motivations. This one just seems very hard to compartmentalize.

“You can’t box it into the racial motivation because he appears to be Asian in his heritage and the victims of course were Asian in an Asian community,” Huber said. 

Hero disarms mass shooter 

The gunman, Huu Can Tran, 72, opened fire at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park after a Lunar New Year celebration Saturday night before driving to another dance hall in nearby Alhambra, where he brandished a semi-automatic weapon, investigators said. Tran killed 11 people and injured nine at the first dance hall, according to CNN.

Brandon Tsay is an employee of Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, Calif. Tsay spotted the gunman in the lobby.

“That’s when I turned around and saw that there was an Asian man holding a gun,” he said. “My first thought was I gonna die here.”

“When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon, and we had a struggle,” Tsay said. “We struggled into the lobby, trying to get this gun away from each other,” he told Good Morning America.

Tsay said the gunman struck him multiple times, but he was able to wrestle the gun from Tran.

Tsay said this about the survivors of the mass shooting.

“I hope they could find the courage and strength to persevere.”

Later, Tran was found dead in his vehicle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday, according to CNN.

“Tran visited the Hemet Police Department lobby on Jan. 7 and 9, 2023, alleging past fraud, theft and poisoning allegations involving his family in the Los Angeles area 10 to 20 years ago. Tran stated he would return to the station with documentation regarding his allegations but never returned,” the police department said in a statement.

Armed and angry US society

“I know the FBI does a lot of profiling trying to figure out who these [mass shooters] are,” Dave said. “Is there a way for them to identify this kind of threat or is this a game changer when you start looking at this 72-year-old? I think about the subway shooter in New York that was 63 years old. I wonder if this just changes the entire profile system?”

Huber said every mass shooting is analyzed to find patterns so law enforcement can intercept threats before they occur.

“I think there is some success in that and finding extremists who have made threats on the internet or otherwise,” he said. “How could you predict a 72-year-old guy who likes to go dance halls is going to take a high-capacity pistol and shoot up the place?”

“The lone wolf, they are such a dangerous threat,” Debbie noted, “because they’re acting alone. I mean, they’re the only ones who know their plan. And if they’re not on the internet, then how do they get identified?”

In closing, Huber said the US society is angry, violent and contempt-ridden.

“How do we lower the volume so that we can get away from this penchant for violence that we have in the United States?” he asked, adding knee-jerk reactions are not the answer. “Those are all Band-Aid approaches to a deep societal wound that we have in the United States. That we champion hatred and contempt so much, and we glorify violence in so many ways that it is no wonder that we have a challenge like no other First World country has.”

Related reading

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Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Mass shooter’s age – 72 – makes California massacre harder to unravel