On Saturday night, some 100 dancers had gathered at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif. to celebrate the Lunar New Year. It was a place frequented by elderly and middle aged couples, who went to learn moves from international ballroom competitors.
It turned into a place of tragedy when a mass shooting left 11 dead and another 9 injured. More details about the victims are emerging, as the LA County Coroner’s Office begins naming the victims. Two of the first victims to be identified, My Nhan and Lilan Li, were both women in their 60s. Since then, the names of other victims have been released, including Diana Tom, a 70-year-old wife and grandmother; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Muoi Ung, 67; Hong Jian, 62; Yu Kao, 72; Chia Yau, 76; Wen Yu, 64; Valentino Alvero, a 68-year-old father; and Ming Wei Ma, the 72-year-old owner of the dance studio.
“It’s difficult to believe that [this] happened here in Monterey Park,” Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo said at a press conference on Sunday. “I want the community to be rest assured that our police department will continue every day to protect the safety of everyone.”
The shooting occurred on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, in a city whose population is about 66% Asian American. It was the 33rd mass shooting of the year and the fifth mass murder shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Lilan Li has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. She was 63.
Ming Wei Ma
When a gunman walked into Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif. late Saturday night, Ming Wei Ma, 72, was the first to rush towards him, according to friends. A beloved dance instructor, witnesses told Fox LA and ABC7 that he was a victim in the mass shooting.
At the Langley Center, where a victim resource center has been set up, friends remembered Ma as a caring member of the dance community, who lost his life trying to save others.
“He was an extremely respected, very beloved, very caring teacher, instructor, extremely kind human being, and he’s very much missed by everyone in the Star Dance community,” friend Eric Chen told Fox LA.
In a statement on Twitter, 65-year-old Mymy Nhan’s family said that she had spent her weekends at the dance studio in Monterey Park for years. “It’s what she loved to do,” the family wrote. “But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.”
Mymy’s family said she was a loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend known for her warm smile and kindness. “Mymy was our biggest cheerleader,” they wrote.
“We are starting the Lunar New Year broken.”
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Xiujuan Yu, a 57-year-old woman, was also named as a victim of Saturday’s mass shooting.
A GoFundMe set up by Yu’s niece, Kathleen Fong, detailed the life her aunt had built with her husband and children in Monterey Park after immigrating to the United States, writing, “my aunt was in the middle of crafting that future with her husband and children, and now to have that journey suddenly interrupted is heartbreaking.”
“She will never be able to witness what she dreamed of for all these years,” Fong wrote.
The Medical Examiner-Coroner also identified Valentino Alvero, a 68-year-old male, as one of the 11 victims who died in the tragedy.
After the shooting on Saturday, Alvero’s family said they “became unwilling members of a community who has to mourn the loss of our loved ones due to gun violence.” In a Twitter statement they added that Alvero was “more than just a headline or a news story,” describing his devotion to his family and his love of ballroom dancing.
“We wish we could let him know that we will all miss him for the rest of our days on this Earth,” the statement said.
Speaking of her father, Alvero’s daughter Kristenne Alvero told Rolling Stone, “My dad loved God, he loved people, and he loved to dance. I hope he’s dancing now, in that great gig in the sky.” She also shared a photo of Alvero with a beaming smile—the way she says she wanted to remember him.
Diana Tom, a 70-year-old woman, was also wounded at the dance studio and later transferred to the hospital in critical condition. Tom died on Jan. 22, ABC News reported.
“On behalf of Diana Tom, we, her family, condemn this senseless act of violence that has uprooted the lives of all the victims, their families and the entire API community at large,” Tom’s family said in a statement. “We honor and support all of those affected.”
The family described their late family member as a “hard-working mother, wife, and grandmother who loved to dance.”
“On the night of Jan. 21, Diana was at Star Dance celebrating the Lunar New Year by dancing with her friends,” the statement said. “To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others.”
Hong Jian has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. She was 62.
Muoi Ung has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. She was 67.
Yu Kao has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. He was 72.
Chia Yau has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. He was 76.
Wen Yu has been identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. He was 64.
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