US shootings

Filipino confirmed killed in California massacre as death toll rises to 11


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Filipino confirmed killed in California massacre as death toll rises to 11

MOURNING. Flowers and candles are left outside of the entrance of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio after a mass shooting during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Monterey Park, California, U.S. January 23, 2023.

David Swanson/REUTERS

(4th UPDATE) Philippine Deputy Consul General Ambrosio Enciso confirms that a Filipino, 68-year-old Valentino Alvero, was among those killed in the shooting

CALIFORNIA, USA – The Los Angeles county coroner’s office on Monday began identifying the 11 people killed in the Lunar New Year massacre inside a popular dance parlor in Monterey Park, California.

Ten victims died at the scene of the Saturday shooting. Authorities on Monday said an 11th person, a woman in her 70s, died while being treated at a local hospital.

The coroner’s office confirmed the names of four victims. Three women – My Nhan, 65, Lilan Li, 63, and Xiujuan Yu, 57 – were among the patrons who died in Saturday’s shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. The fourth named victim was Valentino Alvero, 68.

Philippine Deputy Consul General Ambrosio Enciso earlier confirmed in an interview with Philippine radio station DZBB on Tuesday, January 24, that a Filipino – Alvero – was among those killed in the shooting.

He said that the consulate was “trying to reach out to the family.”

“I’m sure they are in shock and mourning,” Enciso said.

While not releasing the other victims’ names, the coroner’s office said the six women and five men who were killed were all in their 50, 60s, and 70s.

The 11th victim died on Monday, January 23, from injuries suffered in the weekend shooting rampage at a Los Angeles-area dance hall, as investigators searched for a motive behind one of California’s bloodiest outbursts of mass gun violence.

Ten victims died at the scene of the Saturday shooting. Authorities on Monday said an 11th person, a woman in her 70s, died while being treated at a local hospital.

Even as Los Angeles-area police worked through second full day of their investigation, seven people were reported slain in a separate, mass shooting in the northern California coastal town of Half Moon Bay on Monday.

‘Starting the Lunar New Year broken’

Nhan’s family said in a written statement released on Twitter that “we are starting the Lunar New Year broken.” They said Nhan, whom they remembered for her warm smile and kindness, had visited the dance studio on weekends for many years.

“It’s what she loved to do,” they said. “But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.”

Friends and frequenters of the ballroom identified another victim as Ming Wei Ma, believed to be in his 60s. He was a frequent presence at the dance studio, and friends told a CBS affiliate that he was among the first to rush the shooter.

“He was just caring, an ‘others first, people first’ kind of person,” Ma’s friend Eric Chen told local media.

Lauren Woods, a tango dance instructor at the ballroom, said Ma was “the heart” of the studio.

Woods wrote on her Facebook profile that Ma would greet her with a kiss on the cheek and say “My teacher! My teacher!” and “Love you! Love you!”

Dariusz Michalski, another dance instructor at the ballroom, took to social media to express sympathy for all the victims and their families.

He had especially kind words for Ma, whose “love, joy for people will never be forgotten.”

Over a photo of Michalski and Ma embracing as the pair celebrated the dance instructor’s 50th birthday at a party inside the studio last June, Michalski wrote of Ma: “Your dance and singing passion will never disappear. You will be greatly missed. I love you my friend.”

Other victims’ identifications were withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The coroner’s office said one woman who died was in her 50s and two other women, in addition to the ones identified, were in their 60s. Three men killed were in their 70s and two were in their 60s.

The Chinese consulate in Los Angeles said in a statement that Chinese citizens were among those killed but did not offer further details about the victims. Acting Chinese Counsul General Shi Yuanqiang met with Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna and expressed his wish to work closely together, according to a tweet from the sheriff’s department.

Lone suspect

Police identified Huu Can Tran, 72 as the lone suspect in a massacre that unfolded Saturday night in the midst of a Lunar New Year celebration Monterey Park, just east of Los Angeles. He drove to another dance hall where a second attack was thwarted, and later killed himself as police closed in to make an arrest hours after the shooting.

Tran opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a venue popular with older patrons of Asian descent. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said investigators recovered 42 shell casings from the studio and a large-capacity ammunition magazine.

He said the search of the suspect’s mobile home in a gated senior-living community in the town of Hemet, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, turned up a rifle, various electronic devices and items “that lead us to believe the suspect was manufacturing homemade” weapons silencers.

Police also seized hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the dwelling, Luna said.

According to police, Tran barged into another dance hall about 20 minutes later in the neighboring community of Alhambra, where he was disarmed by an employee and fled that scene, triggering an overnight manhunt. Luna credited the owner of the dance hall with disarming the would-be shooter.

The search for the gunman ended on Sunday morning when the suspect shot himself as police officer surrounded his cargo van in a parking lot in Torrance, south of Los Angeles.

Authorities on Sunday said a motive for the shooting remained to be determined.

On Sunday, Luna said “everything is on the table” in terms of identifying the reasons for the shooting.

Officers in Hemet, about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, were assisting the county Sheriff’s Department in a search of Tran’s mobile home in a gated senior living community, said Alan Reyes, spokesperson for the Hemet Police Department.

Luna told a news briefing on Monday that Tran had a “limited” past criminal history, including a 1990 arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Hemet police said in a statement on Monday that Tran had come to the department twice in early January alleging “past fraud, theft and poisoning allegations involving his family” dating back 10 to 20 years. Tran had said he would return with documentation regarding his claims but never did, the police statement said.

Tran had an active trucking license and had owned a company called Tran’s Trucking Inc with a post office box address in Monterey Park, according to online records. He had lived in the Los Angeles area since at least the 1990s and moved to the mobile home in Hemet in 2020, address records showed. A neighbor in his gated community described him as “meek” in an interview Monday.

But Adam Hood, a longtime tenant of the alleged gunman at a property in the Los Angeles area, told Reuters he had known Tran to be an aggressive and suspicious person with few friends. Tran had liked ballroom dancing, largely his only social activity, Hood said.

Hood said Tran complained that people at the Star Ballroom studio were talking behind his back.

“He was a good dancer in my opinion,” Hood said. “But he was distrustful of the people at the studio, angry and distrustful. I think he just had enough.”

Tragedy and a chase

Luna praised the “heroic” actions of Brandon Tsay, the man who operates the family-run Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio dance club, where the gunman apparently sought to carry out a second attack. The sheriff credited Tsay with single-handedly wrestling away a semi-automatic assault-style pistol from the suspect before the gunman could get off a shot.

“That moment, it was primal instinct,” Tsay told the New York Times, saying that the gunman fled the scene after a 90-second struggle. “Something happened there. I don’t know what came over me.”

About 12 hours later, police officers in Torrance, 20 miles southwest of Monterey Park, cornered a white cargo van that Tran was driving. As officers neared the van, they heard a single gun shot from inside as Tran killed himself.

Luna said the pistol that Tran used was likely illegal in California, having a magazine whose capacity exceeded the state limit of 10 rounds.

The shooting took place during a two-day Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, which draws thousands of people from across Southern California.

As news about the shooting spread, some in the tight-knit community of Monterey Park initially feared it was a hate crime targeting Asians. The city of 60,000 people has for decades been a destination for immigrants from China. Around 65% of its residents are Asian, according to U.S. Census data. Residents describe it as a friendly community where such a tragedy was previously unthinkable.

At the entrance to the Star Ballroom dance studio on Monday, residents left flowers, fruit and candles to honor the dead. –

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