Monterey Park community devastated by “targeted” mass shooting on Lunar New Year

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Monterey Park, a predominantly Chinese-American city located near Los Angeles, has earned a spot on one of the grimmest lists in the United States. Saturday, January 21, the community was the site of a mass shooting that claimed ten lives.

It was meant to be a weekend of celebration in Monterey Park to usher in the Lunar New Year. The streets were filled with large crowds to enjoy the carnival rides, live entertainment, and plentiful food options. The festival came to a tragic halt when 72-year-old Huu Can Tran opened fire in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, killing five men and five women.

Approximately 15-20 minutes later, he walked into the Lai Lai Ballroom in the neighboring city of Alhambra. Tran was confronted and disarmed in the lobby by a man whose family operates the studio. Sunday, January 22, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed Tran was dead. He killed himself while being pursued by law enforcement.

Luna also confirmed that a motive has not yet been established. According to Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California CEO Connie Chung Joe, one is not necessary. Per Ms. Chung Joe, “Regardless of intent, the impact on our community has been profound. Having this tragedy occur on one of our most important holidays feels very personal.”

The Lunar New Year festival in Monterey Park is usually one of the largest in California. Mayor Pro Tem Jose Sanchez was attending the event with his 6-year-old daughter. He commented, “We haven’t had a celebration like this in three years, so this weekend is momentous, and people have come out in droves.” Sanchez estimated that 100,000 people were in attendance on Saturday.

Yet the atmosphere in Monterey Park went from revelry to chaos as people fled from the studio and the shooter. Sunday’s events were canceled immediately, but neighboring Asian communities did celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.

The massacre is the deadliest since the May 24 attack in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people were killed in an elementary school. Asian American advocate groups are calling Saturday’s shooting “another blow” to the demographic after years of nationwide anti-Asian violence.

Connie Chung Joe, whose nonprofit had a booth set up at the festival, echoed this with her statement, “There is still a feeling of being targeted and fearful when we hear about a shooting like this.”

 The event resonated in Asian American communities across the nation. It also prompted police departments from coast to coast to increase patrols of their own Lunar New Year celebrations. A public vigil for the ten victims will be held in the coming days, per Jose Sanchez.

Cover Image: Jae C. Hong/AP

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