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Police Say, 72-Year-Old Man Killed Ten at Dance Studio, Then Himself; Supreme Court Again Issuing Opinions in Person from the Bench; Oversight Chair Rep. James Comer (R-KY) Wants Any Location Where the President Has Spent Any Amount of Time Searched. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Investigators in Monterey Park, California, searching for a motive this morning after a 72-year-old gunman killed ten people, wounded ten more at a dance hall during Lunar New Year celebration. Police say the gunman later took his own life after a standoff with officers.

SCIUTTO: Before it all ended so horribly, police say he did try to target a second dance hall. He was stopped by a bystander, Brandon Tsay, who managed to wrestle the gun away from him.


BRANDON TSAY, HELPED DISARM MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING SUSPECT: My first thoughts was I was going to die here, this was it.

When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both of my hands and grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle. We struggled into the lobby trying to get this gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face, bashing the back of my head. I was trying to use my elbows to separate the gun away from him creating some distance.


SCIUTTO: Brandon Tsay there who confronted the gunman. CNN Anchor Don Lemon, he is on the scene in Monterey Park, California.

Don, you're witnessing so much hurt there, I imagine. What are you learning this morning?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Jim and Erica, can you imagine being in that situation with a gunman who is just indiscriminately trying to shoot people and then having to wrestle it away? I mean, it is just unbelievable. That was at the second scene. There are three different scenes here. One where the gunman died, took his own life, the one where the young man you saw and another person helped to wrestle it away and then the one here where I'm standing in Monterey Park, California, where ten people were kill and ten others injured, some still in the hospital.

The gunman being identified as Huu Can Tran, 72 years old, didn't even live close to here. Traveled here to Monterey Park, did the shooting, then went to another shooting in Alhambra where the gunman wrestled -- where they wrestled the gun away from them, and then found in his van, a white panel van, in Torrance, California. So, three different scenes here.

This area has been traumatized. The Asian-American community traumatized here as they were celebrating the Lunar New Year. This was supposed to be the New Year celebration starting yesterday and now they are in mourning. They are grieving at this hour.

We're awaiting word of another press conference. The last one was last night. We're expecting another one today but they haven't given a time. So, I want to check in now with the mayor of Monterey Park. His name is Henry Lo and he joins us now. Thank you, good morning to you.


LEMON: What a couple of days it has been, really, just a matter of one day. They caught the gunman within a matter of 24 hours, and here we are this morning. We're getting the identity of the suspect, or of the person who is dead now, also some information about the gun. Are there any updates on motive?

LO: Unfortunately, we are still trying to determine the motive of the reason why the gunman did what he did. After speculation, my understanding is that he had met his ex-wife at that location many years ago. But, again, we don't know why he did what he did. Was it an issue of being disgruntled or the issue domestic violence, we don't know, unfortunately.

LEMON: But we know that he did have a connection to this community.

LO: Yes. He frequently attended the dance hall, was my understanding.

LEMON: But he lived in, what is it, I believe, was it, Hemet?

LO: He currently lived in Hemet but probably also at one point lived in this area for a while because I was told that in the past he was a frequent attendee of this dance hall.

LEMON: And you know new information on the gun, because it is believed that the gun is -- you cannot legally purchase it now. But perhaps in the past, it was a -- that the gun may have been legal?

LO: That is an important question. I mean, how did this person obtain this illegal weapon? And I think there's still a lot questions that still answering.

LEMON: Let talk about the community now, again, as I said, they're traumatized. One of our correspondents has a connection to the community, Kyung Lah. She said everyone is devastated. She and her mother had both been celebrating the Lunar New Year and then all of a sudden this happened and it was abruptly stopped.


Are we learning anything about the victims? Do you have names, information about the victims?

LO: We don't have names of the victims yet. We're awaiting for that from the sheriff's department. But you are right, this has been a devastating tragedy here in Monterey Park. We held our Lunar New Year festival after the absence of three years, in which we could not hold such an event due to the pandemic and what was supposed to be a time of celebration, unfortunately also became a bit of tragedy for our community.

LEMON: So, nothing about the victims here? I understand that at least one of the names had been released because of someone released or a family member has released it to the press.

LO: Well, I understand that, again, there may have been on social media.

LEMON: On social media.

LO: But, again, that can't be confirmed yet.

LEMON: What is the Asian-American Pacific Islander community has gone through so much drama, so much stress, especially coming out of the pandemic and dealing with anti-Asian violence and hate, what do you say to the country regarding that and to the community?

LO: Well -- and you are actually right. I mean, whatever the motive is of the gunman, you know, I think when the news first broke, I mean, many did speculate was an issue of anti-hate because we had a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the last few years. And so, understandably, communities not just in Monterey Park but across the country have been on edge.

But as far as the community of Monterey Park, we are resilient community, we're a strong community. We, during the pandemic, had one of the highest rates of vaccinations here in Los Angeles County. And there was just tremendous support within our community to helping people out. And I believe that although it is going to be a long, hard road for recovery, but we will do it and we will succeed and we will overcome this crisis.

LEMON: Mayor Henry Lo, thank you very much. We really appreciate you joining us.

LO: Thank you.

LEMON: Jim and Erica, listen, there are still so many questions to be answered here. We got a lot of information last night during the press conference. We learned about the events that precipitated this and what happened here. But still they don't know. Is the gun legal? What is the motivation here? What would cause someone to do something this horrific? Still lots of answers here and people here are just traumatized. They cannot believe that this happened in their community.

SCIUTTO: And then, of course, the big question, why it happens so often in so many communities, so many different ones in this country. Don Lemon, good to have you there. Thanks so much.

HILL: Also joining us, Mayor George Chen, he's the mayor of Torrance, California. So, Torrance is about 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park. That, of course, is where the suspect was located. Mayor Chen, good to have you with us this morning.

I wonder if we could pick up actually where your fellow mayor just left off. When we talk about the community, you know, this is the first time in three years that people were able to come together and celebrate. The co-director of Stop Asian Hate was on CNN earlier and she was noting that it felt like a time where we could finally start to put things behind you. But instead this morning there is so much fear, there is so much trepidation.

Your cities now, Monterey Park and Torrance, are forever linked. What is your message to both of those communities this is morning?

MAYOR GEORGE CHEN, TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA: First of all, I start with this, thank you for having me. And on behalf of my council, entire council and myself, and the entire city of Torrance, our hearts, condolences and prayer to all of the victims and their families for this incident. Our hearts go out to you.

I think we just don't know what to say at this moment. Because so many things are -- so many questions are going there you our heads right now. We in the city of Torrance are very, very fortunate that we have a strong presence in terms of public safety. We worked very well with the sheriffs' deputies yesterday. It just so happened we don't know why the person that came roughly 30 miles south here and we're just very happy that our police department and the sheriff were right on and that we could actually put an end to this -- this event.

But we are definitely -- our hearts go out to the community. We're not even sure that everyone who was killed at the dance hall were residents of Monterey Park. But we just want to make sure that our hearts and prayers go out to all of the victims and those who are still in the hospital.

HILL: Understandably. Are you concerned, and as we just noted, as Don just noted with the mayor of Monterey Park, we don't yet know the identities of the victims.


They haven't been released. But to your point, they may not all be from Monterey Park. Are you concerned that there could be some of your residents among those who were killed or injured?

CHEN: That is actual possible. Because my understanding is not only the Monterey Park one, and the Alhambra one, they are very popular dance halls and we don't have that kind of dance halls here that -- in a mass Asian community would gather. So, yes, absolutely, there are a lot of questions out there.

HILL: And as we look at -- you noted the quick response for when this van happened to -- ended up in your city. When were you first made aware that the man who believed was believed to be the suspect at the time was in your city?

CHEN: I was made aware very late morning Sunday. That is when I was made aware by our city staff, that the event is happening. Because I was -- I was at an event Saturday night and Sunday I was already at church. So, I was not dialed into any news or social media until the city manager contacted me.

HILL: And so when you got that call, what was your reaction?

CHEN: First reaction was a bit of a state of shock, but at the same time, didn't want to jump into any conclusions because I know that the situation still might have been live and the worst thing that I believe I can do as a leader in the city is to start jumping into different conclusions that is not based on facts. I just want to maintain that, yes, I'm here, and keep me updated so that we don't get rumor on top of rumor. It would be a very bad case at a time like this.

HILL: Yes, understandably. I mean, we just heard from Mayor Lo, there was early speculation and concern based on what the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community in this country has been faced with in terms of anti-Asian hate over the last several years. And we saw and heard about increases in security in those hours after this shooting. Is there increased security this morning in Torrance moving forward for any celebrations?

CHEN: As far as I know, there is -- the security is just as high as ever in the city of Torrance. And it is one of the things that my colleagues and I emphasized, that we want to make sure that the city of Torrance is the safest. The thing is the city is very large, 21 square miles. So, we just want to make sure that we judiciously have our police department spread all over the place and we actually encourage our residents to keep their eyes and ears open as additional sensors for our police department in terms of the details of how much and where the increased security are, I don't know specifics. But definitely we're at heightened awareness.

HILL: Yes. Mayor George Chen, I appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. Sir, thank you.

CHEN: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now is CNN Law Enforcement Contributor and retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Steve Moore. Steve, good to have you on this morning.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me. SCIUTTO: So many questions unanswered. It is early in the investigation. So, setting aside those, let's look at some of the things that we do know. One, we know that the weapon wrestled away from the suspect, the shooter at a second location he attempted to go into, an M-11, 9 millimeter semi-automatic with an extended magazine. We often see semi-automatic used in shootings like with extended magazines, sometimes long rifles, in this case a handgun. Can you describe what difference that makes in terms of allowing a gunman to kill more people, right, or shoot more people in a short period of time?

MOORE: Well, what that means is every time you pull the trigger, the round goes out the barrel. It is not fully automatic where you pull it have an unending stream. It's just -- but when you have 30 rounds, you've got 30 potential targets before you -- before you have to reload. And, by the way, the minute in California that 30-round magazine went into that gun, it was illegal. So, to answer that question, whether the gun was legal beforehand or after, when a 30- round magazine goes in, it is an illegal weapon in California.

HILL: There are also questions about -- they'll be looking into how and when the gun was acquired but also about the motive here, which raises so many questions. So, the few bits that we've all been able to piece together, right, are details that come from his ex-wife about his temperament, from a long time friend.


It doesn't seem, though, that either was in recent contact with this man. And so trying to piece together what may have happened in the years in between, where will they start? And we know we hear a lot about social media, but I also wonder this may be different given that we're dealing with a 72-year-old man, not a teenager who may have left as big a footprint.

MOORE: Right. But there will be some kind of trail. You know, before the internet, we actually used to work on crimes like this and figure out what the person was like. And it is going to be more shoe leather than it is going to be computer keys. And you're going to be talking to people who knew him. He had to frequent stores. He had to get food. I mean, even if he was a hermit, people saw him and encountered him.

And so they're going to try to build basically a biography of him really started at birth but coming down especially the last few years because no background look at somebody is a snapshot. It is a video because people change and he seemed to be going downhill.

HILL: Steve Moore, I always appreciate your insight. Good to see you this morning. Thank you.

MOORE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Sad to cover something like that again.

Well, still to come, the Supreme Court is issuing its first opinion of its new term. It's also resuming the pre-pandemic tradition of announcing its opinions in-person from the bench. We're going to have the details just ahead.

Plus, the DOJ has seized an additional batch of classified documents during another search of President Biden's home in Wilmington.

HILL: And right now, jury selection underway in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. You're going to hear some new details this morning about social media evidence which prosecutors say is key in this case.



HILL: This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the first opinions for this term, and while doing so, also resumed its longstanding pre- pandemic tradition of announcing opinions in-person from the bench.

SCIUTTO: It has been three years almost.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us now. Particularly good news for those who likes to hear it just from the justices themselves, right? They're in their own voice as they announce their decisions.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a bit of return to normalcy for this court that has really been unsettled over the past three years, particularly the last year after the leak. Now, they are back on the bench announcing these opinions.

And just for viewers at home, for the past almost three years now, when these opinions have been announced, the justices haven't taken the bench as they previously did throughout Supreme Court history because of COVID. They were not in the courtroom. They were only released electronically. But today, for the first time, the justices were back on the bench announcing two opinions sort of under the radar cases. One was a dismissal, one involved veterans disability benefits.

But Amy Coney Barrett did take to the bench to read part of what was the unanimous majority opinion in that veterans disability case. What is interesting here, Jim, is this is the longest in Supreme Court history it has taken the court to actually release an opinion for the first time in its term.

SCIUTTO: Interesting.

SCHNEIDER: And there is a lot of questions as to why that has happened. We don't know officially. It could be potentially that there was a new justice on the court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, and perhaps it has something to do with maybe these increased security measures that they presumably instituted after the leak. But it is notable that it has taken so long to get --

SCIUTTO: That last point is interesting, saying it could have been concerned about word getting out before they were ready?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they've said that they are looking to change the security protocols at the court in the wake of that leak. That is something that was recommended by the marshal of the court, also Michael Chertoff, who reviewed this investigation. So, potentially, they changed some of the ways that they work because of the leak. We don't know what those ways are. They're not releasing that publicly. But that could be contributing to the fact that these opinions are taking so long to get out there to the public.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. .Well, they have got a lot of other opinions to announce this term as well. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

New this morning, House Oversight Chairman James Comer calling on the Justice Department to expand its probe into Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. The Kentucky Republican says that, quote, any premises is where the president has spent any amount of time now need to be searched.

HILL: And this, of course, followed the voluntary FBI search of Biden's Wilmington home on Friday where more classified material was discovered.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid joining us now. So, Monday morning, get us up to speed here, Paula.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, this is truly extraordinary. The FBI searched the home of a sitting president for nearly 13 hours on Friday. And Biden's legal team issued a statement revealing that investigators retrieved what they describe as six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials. But it is unclear exactly what that means, if these were pages, documents, a box. We know from our reporting that investigators are still combing through what they retrieved but the president's lawyers actually received an inventory, essentially a receipt of what was taken.

Now, the previous search of this Wilmington home was conducted by the president's personal attorneys and they're really emphasizing here how they are cooperating and they offered to allow the FBI to search the premises here. Of course, they're doing that to try to draw a contrast between this case and the ongoing investigation into former President Trump's retention of classified documents, as well as his efforts to obstruct that investigation.

Now, what is interesting is this search on Friday was not overseen by the soon to be special counsel, Robert Hur.


He's not yet on the job. So, it is notable that, really, the full blown criminal investigation hasn't even started. But we're already seeing the Biden team kind of switch up their approach. Over the past two months what has transpired has really generated a lot of questions about why the Biden team took so long, weeks and weeks to search his residence, about why they weren't more transparent. And here, you see they were trying to be more cooperative, allow the FBI to do this search, move a little bit faster. And also they released a statement within 24 hours providing some, though not as many as we'd like, details about what exactly happened. And we do expect that there could potentially be more searches of additional locations.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

HILL: Still to come here, you may remember this chilling 911 call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need the police and ambulance immediately. My wife and child have been shot badly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Alex Murdaugh.


SCIUTTO: Well, now, jury selection has begun for a double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. He's accused of killing his wife and son. It is taking place in South Carolina. We're going to have the latest of what we've learned about the case, coming up.