LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A man fatally shot 10 people at a ballroom dance venue where people were celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year late on Saturday in a city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, and he was still at large after fleeing the scene, police said.
At least another 10 people were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries, and at least one was in critical condition, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said early on Sunday morning, about five hours after the attack in Monterey Park.
When local police first arrived, people were "pouring out of the location screaming," department captain Andrew Meyer told reporters in a news briefing at the scene.
At a later briefing, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said they believed the shooter, who remained at large nearly 11 hours after the attack, was an Asian man, based on "preliminary information" from eyewitnesses.
"We need to get this person off the street as soon as possible," he said.
Earlier on Sunday morning, the sheriff's department said it did not know whether the attack was racially motivated.
The shooting took place after 10 p.m. PST (0600 GMT on Sunday) around the location of a two-day Chinese Lunar New Year celebration where many downtown streets are closed for festivities that draw thousands of people from across Southern California. Police said the celebrations planned for Sunday were now canceled.
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people around 7 miles (11 km) from downtown Los Angeles. About two-thirds of its residents are Asian, according to U.S. Census data, and the city is known for its many Chinese restaurants and groceries. The sheriff's department said it did not know whether the attack was racially motivated.
Video footage taken by local news media showed injured people, many of them appearing to be middle aged, being loaded into ambulances on stretchers.
Seung Won Choi, who owns a seafood barbecue restaurant near the site of the attack, told the Los Angeles Times that three people rushed into his restaurant and told him to lock the door because a man was unloading multiple rounds of ammunition at the dance club across the street.
The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on the attack and had directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist local police.
Mass shootings are recurrent in the United States, and the attack in Monterey Park was the deadliest since May 2022, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas. The deadliest shooting in California history was in 1984 when a gunman killed 21 people at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, near San Diego.