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‘Life Is Fragile.’ The Monterey Park Hero Speaks at a Ceremony to Honor His Act of Bravery

3 minute read

A week after the devastating Lunar New Year shooting in Monterey Park, Calif. that killed 11 people, the city of Alhambra honored Brandon Tsay, the bystander that disarmed gunman Huu Can Tran.

The city decided to move forward with the Lunar New Year celebration on Sunday, awarding 26-year-old Tsay with a medal of courage from the Alhambra Police Department during the opening ceremony on Sunday. “The carnage would have been so much worse had it not been for Brandon Tsay,” said California Representative Judy Chu during the ceremony.

“I realized that life is fragile. I feel that we as a community should spend our precious time reaching out to one another,” Tsay said at the event Sunday. Despite the devastation, Tsay said he hoped the victims’ families would be able to “heal” from the tragedy. “I pray for them to be able to find joy again,” he added.

Read More: How to Help the Victims and Community After the Monterey Park Shooting

Surveillance video of the night of the shooting shows Tsay single-handedly wrestling a firearm from the shooter. The 72-year-old gunman arrived at the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, which Tsay’s family has run for the last three decades, about 20 minutes after he attacked people at another dance studio in Monterey Park. Tsay was working at the ticket office when the gunman arrived, and struggled with him to wrench the gun away. “I can tell you that the suspect walked in there probably with the intent to kill more people,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna previously said.

Tran fled the scene and later shot himself when police surrounded his white cargo van in Torrance, Calif.

On Sunday in Alhambra, Tsay was received by a standing ovation, with some of the more than 20,000 attendees holding posters in support. “Brandon Tsay is our hero,” one of them read.

The Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival
Becki Pang, center, cheers for Brandon Tsay, 26, after he was awarded a medal of courage from the Alhambra Police Department during a ceremony at the the Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival on Jan. 29, 2023 in Alhambra, Calif.Gary Coronado—Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

President Biden called Tsay last week to thank him for taking “incredible action in the face of danger.”

“You are America, pal. You are who we are,” Biden said on the call. “America’s never backed down, we’ve always stepped up, because of people like you.” Tsay will be President Biden’s guest at the upcoming State of the Union address on Feb. 7.

In the midst of much praise, Tsay said he was also still processing the grief and pain that forced him to take such heroic actions. “Most of the victims I knew personally,” Tsay revealed at the award ceremony. “They’d always come by the dance studio and I considered them friends. They were some of the most caring people I have ever met. And, for them to be taken from us is such an excruciating experience.”

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