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Lunar New Year Massacre in CA

By Jenna Melman, Staff Writer

Eleven Asian American seniors were killed, and nine were injured as a result of a shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif. The shooting took place on Saturday, Jan 21. at a Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration. 

At around 10:22 p.m. on Saturday, the shooter opened fire inside of Star Ballroom Dance Studio, less than a block from where a Lunar New Year festival was held. There were 100,00 attendees at the park for the festival, but the shooter did not come for them. 

While the shooting was initially thought to be an act of xenophobia, it has been revealed that the gunman himself was Asian. He was an unstable 72 year-old man named Huu Can Tran who most likely opened fire thinking of his ex-wife. He later killed himself with his own self-made gun at a SWAT scene. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was called earlier on to find and identify the subject. 

About a half an hour after the attack, the shooter went into another ballroom studio, Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in nearby Alhambra. He went with the intent to kill more people, but was disarmed by police. 

On Sunday at about 10:20 a.m., police saw a white cargo van in Torrance, a city south of Monterey Park, and heard a single gunshot. They found Tran inside, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Tran was a very troubled man, and that could’ve led to violence. He had no close friends or family, and was a landlord. A former tenant shared that Tran “always complained that instructors were speaking evil about him or trying to do something bad about him. I’m not quite sure if those things were true, but he always complained. He thought those instructors (at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio) were not friendly to him, and tried to sort of expel him from the group.”

However, his clearest memory of Tran was waking up 15 years ago to the sounds of Tran and a woman he knew only by sight arguing in the street. “You could see the plates flying,the plates were crashing into the street, and he was yelling at her.” 

It’s safe to say Tran was a cautionary individual, and violent. Every weekend, Tran could be seen coming out of his house dressed in his finest clothing. He was always going out to dance,” the tenant said. “Otherwise, we didn’t see him much.” 

His ex-wife of 40 years danced too and they would bump into each other sometimes. Tran contacted the Hemet, Calif. Police Dept. this month, alleging his family tried to poison him 10 to 20 years ago. The allegation was never investigated, police said, because Tran never presented any proof to back up his claims. Tran made his own rifle, granting him the power to destroy life as an at-risk individual. Authorities said they also discovered “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition, to feed a magazine-fed assault-style pistol. This shooting was the nation’s fifth mass killing so far in 2023.There’s the snowballing effect of copycat shootings, which inspires young men to follow in other shooters’ footsteps. 

“Before, if you wanted to find other people to celebrate mass shootings with, that was pretty difficult. But now, you can find entire online communities,” Jonathan Metzl said.

Other students feel similarly to Metzi.

“Gun control needs to be regulated. There was even a case of a dog that killed his own owner. There was a rifle in the backseat with the safety off of the rifle, the dog stepped on it and that was the end of it… we should follow in the example of so many other countries with stricter gun laws,” sophomore nursing major Olivia said.

Since the  COVID-19 pandemic began, people of Asian descent have been targets of hate crimes. Former President Donald Trump came under scrutiny when he used the term “Chinese virus.” 

Some specific incidents by civilians include: A truck driver throwing and spilling a fast food drink on the back of an unassuming Asian woman. In another, an individual told an Asian-American man waiting for a bus “You’re infected China boy, you need to get off the train” and then attempted to pull the man out of his seat. A 22-year-old white man killed eight people including six Asian-American women in a spa in Atlanta, Ga. last year. Michelle Alyssa Go was pushed to death in front of a subway train in New York. Christina Yuna Lee was followed and killed in her home. GuiYing Ma died after being bludgeoned by a rock, and there was a brutal beating of an unnamed 67-year-old Filipino grandmother. 

83 percent of Asian American parents are concerned that their children may be bullied because of their race or ethnicity. 

Yi Yan, a junior and musical theatre major from Hong Kong shared that “It’s terrifying to me because I’m not used to the gunshots, in my country we can’t use guns, so it’s scary that it’s so near me right now (shootings in America) and it is especially terrifying because it’s in the Asian community, and it’s been said to be safe to be in the community with your own people around you. I’m scared because the safe place is no longer safe.” 

Starr, a student at Post, said “It’s very concerning how there are so many mass shootings, like you have to now worry about where you’re going, is it safe….and the stereotype of chinese people bringing COVID is completely unfounded.” 

Monterey Park council member Thomas Wong, who represents the district where the shooting took place, said his community was shocked, saddened and “on edge.”

“Instead of celebrating and bringing family together to look forward to a hopeful and prosperous new year, we’re starting it off with a senseless tragedy,” Wong told NPR. 

A massive memorial is expanding outside the dance studio, the community is really coming together to mourn, pay the dead proper respects and take care of the bereft families of the victims. At a memorial held on Monday each dead dancer had an arch erected to honor their memory These dancers were parents and grandparents., dancers and dreamers. Their names will live on. 

My Nhan, 65, Ming Wei Ma, 72, Diana Tom, 70, Hongying Jian, 62, Xiujuan Yu, 57 , Yu Lun Kao, 72 Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68, Wen Tau Yu, 64, Muoi Dai Ung, 67, Ming Wei Ma, 72 and Ming Wei Ma, the beloved owner of the studio, were all killed. In a 2016 news story about the dance hall, Ma told the Pasadena Star-News that he wanted to create a space for multiple cultures to come together and dance. 
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office are still looking into things.

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