A tight-knit Asian community’s Lunar New Year ended in tragedy Saturday when a mass shooter armed with a 9mm semiautomatic assault weapon stalked into a Southern California dance studio, opened fire, and callously claimed the lives of 11 people celebrating the holiday.
Among the dead were beloved aunt Mymy Nhan, 65, Lilan Li, 63, Xiujuan Yu, 57, and 68-year-old dad Valentino Alvero, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed. The others who were killed were in their 60s and 70s, the office said.
Valentino Marcus Alvero, 68
“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,” Alvero’s daughter Kristenne Alvero tells Rolling Stone. She shared a photo of her dad the way she wanted him remembered, with a big smile.
The grieving daughter says her family lived in Monterey Park since she was a child. Her dad considered Star Studio “his spot” and was friends with many people there. He even hosted a wedding rehearsal dinner and dance party for her there before she got married in 2014.
“I even remember the instructor trying to teach my husband and I how to dance. They were a fun group of people and my dad was really close to them,” she says.
“My dad was awesome. He was the kind of person who was the life of the party, full of joy for life, and love for people,” she recalls. “My dad wasn’t the type of person to flee danger. He would’ve tried to save others if he had the chance. He may have even known the gunman, Huu. I wouldn’t be surprised. Although I can’t say for certain, I think my dad would have forgiven, and even be sympathetic for him.”
Mymy Nhan, 65
Mymy Nhan was remembered as a warmhearted member of her community who went out of her way to care for others.
“She loves everyone that she met. When we have trash pick-up day, she goes out of her way to make sure the trash pick-up person gets a drink. She runs out and always gives him a drink. That’s the kindness we need in the world,” her niece Fonda Quan said in a statement shared with Rolling Stone.
Nhan was identified as “Mymy” by an extended relative who shared a GoFundMe link on Twitter.
“My husband’s family is hurting beyond measure,” Tiffany Liou, whose husband was a nephew of Nhan, tweeted. Liou, a reporter at WFAA in Dallas, said she has covered many tragedies for her job, “and never imagined one would hit so close to home.”
Liou tells Rolling Stone that Nhan was of Chinese descent but raised in Vietnam. She immigrated to the US in 1985 and was a regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park where she died. She was the primary caretaker for her mother who passed away in late December, Liou says.
“We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly,” a statement from Nhan’s family shared by Liou reads. “If you knew her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was contagious. She was a loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend. Mymy was our biggest cheerleader.”
Xiujuan Yu, 57
“When I first heard about the shooting in Monterey Park, it was so unbelievable to me how close to home it was,” Xiujuan Yu’s niece Kathleen Fong wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of herself and her aunt from graduation. “However, never in my life would I have believed that my own aunt, Xiujuan Yu, would fall victim to such an event.”
“My family and I have spent sleepless nights waiting for the news on her status, and it was confirmed with us earlier today that she was among the deceased at the incident,” Fong wrote, redirecting her followers to an individual GoFundMe page established for Yu’s funeral. On the fundraiser page, she shared details of the life her aunt built after immigrating to the U.S. in the early 2010s.
“She and her family have done their best to make a life for themselves here, leaving their past lives behind in China to craft a new future for their little family,” Fong explained. “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.” Yu is survived by her husband and three children, including a set of twins currently attending universities in California in pursuit of respective careers in sports medicine and kinesiology.
Fong added: “Personally, this still doesn’t feel real. It happened all too quickly– we never even got a chance to properly say goodbye. Despite this hardship, my family is doing all we can to heal and ensure my aunt receives a proper burial.”
Ming Wie Ma, 72
Star Dance Studio opened in Monterey Park in 1990 with Ming Wei Ma as its owner. “Mr. Ma had such a vibrant and joyful personality every time he came to chat with us after rehearsal, always wanting to take pictures with us,” Cressida, a dancer at the studio, wrote on social media. “He would grab his heart and exclaim ‘beautiful, beautiful!’ with a playful smile. He was a wonderful supporter of our dancing and a cornerstone of Star Dance Studio. I’m grieving for his loved ones who are missing him today and forever.”
Becca Rogers, who attended the same class, shared: “We will continue to dance with you in our hearts. We know you will be smiling down on us saying ‘Beautiful, beautiful!’ Your passion for dance and bright spirit will stay with us always. Dance in paradise Mr. Ma.”
Dancers and instructors alike referred to the owner endearingly as Mr. Ma. “Mr. Ma your love, joy for people will never be forgotten,” ballroom dance instructor Dariusz Michalski wrote on Facebook. “Our dance and singing passion will never disappear. we will never forget your shout in the studio: ‘I love you.” You will be greatly missed. I love you my friend.”
On Tuesday, the county coroner’s office released the names of the remaining victims. The other women who lost their lives were identified as Muoi Dai Ung, 67, Hongying Jian, 62, and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70. The remaining men were identified as Yu Lun Kao, 72, Chia Ling Yau, 76, and Wen Tau Yu, 64.
A GoFundMe set up by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California to benefit the victims of the tragedy had raised more than $530,000 of its $750,000 goal as of Tuesday evening.
Authorities said a gunman opened fire at approximately 10:22 p.m. local time Saturday at the ballroom dancing venue roughly seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The rampage followed a little more than an hour after the predominantly Chinese American suburb concluded the first day of its annual Luna New Year celebration, a massive event that draws about 100,000 people to the city of 60,000.
Authorities say gunman Huu Can Tran, 72, killed 10 people at the studio with an eleventh victim dying in a hospital on Monday. After mowing down victims with his MAC-10 assault weapon, Tran fled the scene and moved on to another dance hall, Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio, in neighboring Alhambra. Brandon Tsay, who runs the venue with his parents, said he wrestled the gun away from Tran, pointed it back at him and scared him off.
On Sunday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed that the man who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white cargo van after a standoff with police was the shooter. Luna later hailed Tsay as a “hero” who saved “countless lives.”
Luna said Monday that authorities still did not have a confirmed motive for the deadly attack.
This is a developing story…