A “wonderful suburban community” is how California Rep. Judy Chu describes Monterey Park, a city she represents east of Los Angeles where a gunman opened fire Saturday night at a dance studio, killing 11 and wounding nine more.
It was at a Lunar New Year celebration where the assailant, 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, began shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a place that witnesses said he frequented as a patron.
“I want to know how he obtained those weapons. Was it through legal or illegal means? I want to know if he evaded our gun laws and or whether our gun laws need to be changed. I want to know whether he had a mental illness,” Chu told Yahoo News in an interview on Monday.
Chu, a Democrat, shares a long history with Monterey Park, a city of around 60,000 people that’s about 65% Asian. She was elected to the City Council in 1988 before serving three consecutive terms as mayor. In 2009, Chu was elected to represent California’s 28th Congressional District.
On Monday, less than 48 hours after the Monterey Park shooting, another shooter opened fire at two agricultural businesses in Half Moon Bay, a coastal community south of San Francisco, leaving seven people dead.
The suspect in that incident, 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, was arrested after police found him in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation, according to San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus.
Meanwhile, hundreds gathered on Monday night for a vigil at Monterey Park City Hall as investigators worked to find a motive. Mourners brought flowers and candles, sang “Amazing Grace” and listened to city leaders who hoped to lift them up.
“We need to bring the community together to make sure that these victims get the resources that they need,” Chu told Yahoo News. “Their lives have been totally disrupted, and some of them that are in the hospitals are in very serious conditions. We need to make sure that they have the funds needed to pay for their medical care and for the loss of income during this time. And that they have the resources to get back into their lives.”
Saturday’s shooting was the worst mass shooting in Los Angeles County history — and the deadliest in the U.S. since the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school last May.
“Ever since Sandy Hook, I've been involved in the congressional gun safety caucus. and we have undertaken various pieces of legislation over the years,” Chu added.
“But never did I imagine that the mass shootings would come in such frequency and in such increasingly horrible circumstances, like with Uvalde, Buffalo, Club Q and now my city.”
On Monday, Monterey Park residents and those in nearby communities traveled to the crime scene to bring flowers and show solidarity.
“This sort of thing doesn’t only affect the family, the close relatives, but it affects the whole community, everyone,” said Monterey Park resident Yolanda Gallegos.
“I’m just here paying respect. You know, it’s elders, and it’s just a tragedy,” said Joyce Chow, who grew up visiting her grandmother in the area.
Authorities found the suspect on Sunday dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the van he used to get away. Police said he left the scene of the first shooting and went to a second dance hall in Alhambra, just north of Monterey Park, where a man lunged at him and wrestled away his gun.
“He is my hero. He is a very modest and humble young man, and he never could have imagined himself being, well, a James Bond,” Chu said about the Good Samaritan, 26-year-old Brandon Tsay.