In the hours following the mass shooting at the dance hall in Monterey Park, there were questions about why it took so long for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to notify the public about the search for the gunman.
Today, Monterey Park Police Chief Scott Wiese, who was sworn in two days before the shooting, defended the release of information claiming that trying to find accurate information was a challenge amid the chaotic aftermath outside of the Star Dance Studio.
“There was no real mechanism for us to stop and notify the sleeping public at 1 o’clock in the morning about something we don’t have any information on yet, ” he said.
Despite the shock and disbelief, Wiese said the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded another nine inside the Monterey Park ballroom Saturday night was something his department had trained for.
“The younger officers that nice acted like veterans,” said Wiese. “They didn’t hesitate.”
He added that he had six officers in the field on that fateful night and the first units arrived at the scene in about three minutes after receiving the call at about 10:22 p.m. They entered and began to clear the ballroom within a minute after arrival.
The Monterey Park Police Department, consisting of 75 sworn officers quickly called on the Sheriff’s Department for help. The scene was chaotic as officers and firefighters treated the victims and interviewed the nearly 40 witnesses.
Amid this chaos, Wiese and other authorities made the decision to wait on releasing information.
“We didn’t know what we had,” said Wiese. “We knew that we had a male suspect. We put that out to our law enforcement partners in the area very quickly.”
Here is a timeline of the shooting and response:
- As officers secured the scene and about 15 minutes after the initial call, security camera video taken at 10:37 p.m. shows the confrontation with the gunman at the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra.
- Four hours later, at 2:48 a.m. on Sunday morning, the Sheriff’s Department released an online advisory about the shooting.
- At 3:30 a.m. deputies hold their first news conference to say there were looking for the gunman
- After almost 8 hours, at 11:04 a.m. the department released the suspect’s picture and description.
Sheriff Robert Luna defended the length of time it took to release that information.
“We were very strategic in the way we were putting out information,” said Luna. “Ultimately, it worked.”
Chief Wise said the public was not at risk as hundreds of officers were out in the field looking for the suspect and the white van that he was driving.
“I think the community was safe,” said Wiese.
Torrance police later pulled over the van shortly after the Sheriff’s Department released the suspect’s description. The gunman shot and killed himself shortly after he pulled into a parking lot near the Del Amo Mall.
While there is a lot of information that authorities do not know, such as a motive, Chief Wiese said his job right now is making sure the community feels safe.