Death toll in Monterey Park shooting rises to 11

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The death toll in the Monterey Park Lunar New Year mass shooting rose to 11 on Monday, after one person injured in the massacre died in hospital.

All of the victims were in their 50s, 60s or 70s, according to the Los Angeles County coroner.

Four were identified by officials on Monday: My Nhan, 65; Lillian Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; and Valentino Alvero, 68.

Family and friends have identified two others as Ming Wei Ma, whose age was not immediately available, and Nancy Liu, 63.

Nine others were injured in Saturday night’s shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park – a town at the heart of the local Chinese community – just an hour after a nearby Lunar New Year festival ended.

Soon after, the gunman entered a second dance studio, Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra, and was disarmed before fleeing.

The suspected gunman, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found Sunday in a white van in Torrance, where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officials said.

According to law enforcement sources, the investigation is focused on Tran’s interactions at the two dance studios and whether jealousy over a relationship was the motive.

On Monday, officials at the LAC+USC Medical Center announced that one of the four victims being treated there had died.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we are saddened to report that one of the victims succumbed to their extensive injuries,” said Jorge Orozco, general manager of the hospital. “We would like to extend our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.”

The medical center said a 73-year-old woman injured in the shooting was discharged on Monday. Two others were still in hospital, one in critical condition.

Officials “remain hopeful of their recovery,” Orozco said in a statement.

Among the fatalities, authorities have yet to identify two women, one in their 60s and one in their 70s, and three men in their 60s or 70s. The condition of the six others injured was not known on Monday.

Fonda Quan remembered Monday Nhan, her aunt – who was known as Mymy – as charming, cheerful and someone who always saw the good in others.

My Nhan, 65, was one of the victims of the Monterey Park shooting.

(Tiffany Liou)

Nhan left her usual dance class when she was killed. She had decided to go home early to set up the family shrine to pay tribute to ancestors on New Year’s Eve, but was met by the gunman as she drove off, Quan said.

The gunman approached the driver’s side of the car as Nhan and her dance partner backed out of the studio, Quan said. Nhan was shot several times before the gunman entered the ballroom. Her partner, who was in the passenger seat, was not shot, Quan said, and did not recognize the gunman.

After relatives received a call from the coroner that Nhan had died, they went to the scene of the shooting.

“It’s heartbreaking for that to happen,” said Quan, 32, who lived with her aunt. “It was hard to process.”

Nhan was from Ho Chi Minh City and immigrated to Rosemead with her family in the 1980s. She loved ballroom dancing and fashion, Quan said.

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Quan. “Good things don’t always happen to good people.”

In a statement on Twitter, Nhan’s family said she went to the Monterey Park dance studio on weekends for many years.

“It’s what she loved to do,” the statement read. “But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.”

Nhan’s old instructor Maksym Kapitinchuk said she breathed life into the dance studio.

“She would bring five, 10, 20 new people to each class,” Kapinchuk said. “I really don’t know how I’m going to handle it now, teaching without her.”

Another dance teacher, Elena Krifuks of Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio, said she would lean on Nhan to publicize showcases and other events.

“She had everyone’s phone numbers and she was friends with everyone,” Krifkus said.

Nhan’s family described her warm smile and infectious kindness.

“We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly,” the statement read.

Alvero also liked to dance with Star, said a family member who did not wish to be identified.

The family member, who learned of the shooting on TV Sunday morning, said people tried to call Alvero, but he did not respond.

Alvero was married with two children in their thirties.

“He was a cheerful man,” said the relative. “He wants to dance or sing.”

Friends of Ma identified him as an old employee and dancer at Star.

Dariusz Michalski, an instructor, stopped to calm himself when he spoke of his student of several years, who helped manage the studio and was affectionately known as Mr. Mon.

“It was heartbreaking,” Michalski said. “We are just speechless and can’t find the words to describe how we feel right now.”

David DuVal, another instructor, was hired by Ma almost a decade ago.

“He loved what he did,” he said.

Ma and his wife moved to the US from China, where they were part of a “semi-famous” dance troupe, according to DuVal.

Grace, a woman in her 50s, said Ma was DJing at the dance studio on Saturday night when the gunman entered. The song that played was “Light Rain in March,” she said. There were between 12 and 20 people dancing, Grace estimated.

“I was scared at the time and hid under a table in the corner of the hall, so I didn’t see a lot of things,” she said.

In a Facebook post, Lauren Woods, another dance instructor, called “Mr. Ma” the “heart” of the studio, writing that he was “everything at Star and we were always so connected to him.”

When Ma saw her, she wrote, he said, “My teacher,” kissed her cheeks, and said, “I love you! Love you!”

Lily Ko has been taking classes at Star every Tuesday for two years. Ma was a familiar face; she would see him teaching another class.

“He was an excellent dancer,” she said.

When Mom saw her group dance, he would tell them it was “very good, very excellent.”

Ko described him as “humorous and thoughtful” and said he would take her to her car at night after class.

“He made sure I was safe,” she recalls.

Qiang Bjornbak, a Rosemead attorney, described Ma as a social connector whose death has sent shockwaves through the San Gabriel Valley Chinese community.

“He knows so many people,” Bjornbak said of her boyfriend, describing how warm messages about him have flooded China’s WeChat groups.

Bjornbak got to know Ma through Chinese social events and had taken a handful of dance classes at the studio. He was extremely talented and nice, she said, and “super, super friendly.”

On Twitter, Juno Blees said her mother was killed in the shooting. The New York Times identified her mother as Nancy Liu, 63.

‘My mother is gone. She never left the dance studio,” Blees wrote. “My family is devastated, especially my father.”

On Sunday, Blees tweeted that her father was injured in the shooting and that her mother was missing. Her father was later released from the hospital with wounds that were not life-threatening.

Alyce Harley’s mother, Marlene Xu, has been attending Star Ballroom Dance Studio for seven years. It was a place for the 67-year-old to holiday and see friends.

Xu wasn’t with Star on Saturday night, but many of those she knew were there, her daughter said in an interview with The Times.

“She told me earlier this morning that one of the classmates in a Latin ballroom class, someone she shared snacks and stories with, is now dead,” Harley said. “She’s having a really, really hard time.”

Star was a haven for Xu, who emigrated from China and found a sense of belonging in the studio, Harley said.

“People like my mother and a lot of other immigrants could participate in something very Western without it being very foreign to them,” Harley said. “They could feel they could participate in art without feeling ‘different’ or feeling left out. That’s really the key. That’s what Star Ballroom was.”


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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