‘We are starting the Lunar New Year broken’: Families of Monterey shooting victims remember loved ones

Ming Wei Ma was killed in Saturday’s mass shooting according to friends  (KCAL News)
Ming Wei Ma was killed in Saturday’s mass shooting according to friends (KCAL News)

The US has been rocked by the deadliest mass shooting since 21 small children and teachers were killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022.

Ten victims were killed and another 10 wounded when a gunman opened fire inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night, shortly after thousands of members of the Asian American community had gathered for Lunar New Year celebrations in the city outside Los Angeles.

Suspected gunman Huu Can Tran, 72, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday when police closed in on him in his white van, according to authorities.

The motive for the attack remains unknown and it is not clear if Tran knew the victims.

Now, details are emerging about the suspect and those who lost their lives. The heartbroken families of the victims have begun to speak out and remember their loved ones. Here’s what we know about the victims so far:

Who are the shooting victims?

Authorities have begun to publicly identify the 10 victims killed and 10 others injured. It was first reported that the dead included five men and five women.

On Monday it was revealed that nine were aged in their 60s and 70s, and one woman was aged in her 50s.

Two of the women were named by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office as Mymy Nhan, 65, and Lilan Li, 63.

Nhan’s family released a heartbroken statement on Monday

“She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends. It’s what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance. We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly. Mymy was 65 years old. If you knew her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was congruous. She was a loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend. Mymy was our biggest cheerleader.”

The first victim to be unofficially identified by friends was the owner of the ballroom studio who heroically ran towards the gunman to try to stop the massacre.

Ming Wei Ma owns the Star Dance Studio and had worked as a dance instructor there for many years.

His friends told CBS Los Angeles that he was the first to rush towards the gunman when he began opening fire inside the club.

“According to the chat, he was the first to rush the shooter,” said Eric Chen, adding that this was typical of Ma’s selfless nature.

Ming Wei Ma was identifed as friends as being among the victims of the shooting (KCAL News)
Ming Wei Ma was identifed as friends as being among the victims of the shooting (KCAL News)

“He was just caring, and other first, people first kind of person.”

Mr Chen added that it was “heartbreaking and it’s unthinkable that it would happen”.

It remains unclear whether any of the victims were targeted and if the suspect knew them prior to the attack.

Those hospitalised were in conditions ranging from stable to critical.

What we know about the shooting

On Saturday night, approximately seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles, visitors gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The two-day festival draws tens of thousands, making it one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the region, according to the paper.

Around 10.22pm, a man entered the dance club and began shooting.

Seung Won Choi, the owner a seafood restaurant across the street from the ballroom, told the LA Times that party attendees fled the building and ran into his business, warning him to close and lock his doors.

Police arrived at the scene and found that the party-goers were already fighting to escape the building.

“When officers arrived on scene, they observed numerous individuals, patrons … pouring out of the location, screaming,” he told reporters Sunday. “The officers made entry to the location and located additional victims.”

Ten people were killed in the attack and another 10 taken to hospital with various injuries.

Huu Can Tran pictured on surveillance footage in the aftermath of the attack (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)
Huu Can Tran pictured on surveillance footage in the aftermath of the attack (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Police said that, around 20 minutes later, a gunman entered a second dance studio – the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in – in nearby Alhambra.

There, a group of heroic patrons managed to wrestle the gun away from the shooter who then fled the scene. No one was injured in the second incident.

A huge manhunt was launched to track down the gunman of what marks the worst mass shooting in the US since 21 young students and teachers were killed in a massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

On Sunday, investigators tracked down Tran after witnesses at the Alhambra incident reported seeing a white cargo van at the scene and surveillance footage of the suspect was circulated to the public.

Around 12 hours on from the mass shooting, officers had spotted him driving the van around Torrance, about 30 miles from Monterey Park.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said at a press conference on Sunday that when police pulled over the van, Tran drove into a parking lot.

“When officers exited their patrol vehicle to contact the occupant, they heard one gunshot coming from within the van,” the sheriff said.

Two police vehicles are seen near a building where a shooting occurred in Monterey Park (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Two police vehicles are seen near a building where a shooting occurred in Monterey Park (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SWAT teams surrounded the vehicle before approaching the van and finding Tran dead inside from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said.

Evidence found inside the vehicle allegedly ties the 72-year-old to the shooting.

Authorities believe Tran acted alone and are not seeking anyone else in connection to the mass shooting.

The motive for the attack remains unclear.

Tran had been a regular at the Star Dance Studio for years and had previously complained about instructors making “evil” comments about him, people who knew him told CNN. He had also met his ex-wife at the club, sources told CNN.

It is not clear if Tran was still attending the dance studio in the run-up to the mass shooting or if he knew any of the victims.