Heartbreaking recordings of 911 calls released by officials Thursday give a glimpse into the panic and chaos that unfolded when a gunman opened fire at a Monterey Park, California, dance studio last month.
Dozens of patrons filled the studio for a Lunar New Year celebration on Jan. 21. But at 10:21 p.m., a 911 call was placed by a man in the parking lot, according to the Los Angeles Times. The man frantically explained to the dispatcher that his girlfriend was shot through the car’s windshield while they were leaving the party.
The call was transferred to a Monterey Park Fire Department dispatcher, who spoke with the man.
Dispatcher: “Is she awake? Can she talk to you?”
Man: “My, can you talk to me? No, she cannot talk.”
Dispatcher: “OK, is she breathing? Taking breaths?”
Man: “Oh, no. Maybe she died. I’m not sure.”
The man’s girlfriend, Mymy Nhan, 65, was one of 11 people killed in the shooting. Several others were injured.
Another 911 call came in at 10:22 p.m. from a man saying someone was shooting in the dance studio. He said that the shots started “just two minutes ago” and that the gunman was “reloading.”
“Can you see if anyone’s hurt?” the dispatcher asked.
“I don’t know,” the man said, adding that “everyone had run away.”
The man said the shooter was male but was unable to provide any additional description since he was not close enough.
“I thought he was using a firework, I mean firecrackers,” he said. “Still a lot of people outside the building now. So you better send the police.”
According to the Times, patrons were fleeing the studio when Monterey Park Police Department officers arrived at the scene. The gunman had left, but five hours passed before authorities then alerted the public that a shooter was on the loose.
The gunman drove two miles away to another location, the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, The New York Times reports. The ballroom’s operator, Brandon Tsay, said he saw the man standing in the ballroom and pointing a weapon at him. Tsay tackled and disarmed him, potentially averting another massacre.
The next day, the suspect, identified by authorities as Huu Can Tran, was found dead inside his van 30 miles away with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The incident was among the deadliest of the 52 mass shootings that occurred in the U.S. in the first month of the year. Less than 48 hours after the Monterey Park killings, California saw an additional massacre in Half Moon Bay, which left seven people dead.
According to NBC News, officials said the Monterey Park suspect’s motive remains unclear, as no connection has been found between him and the victims of the shooting.