Aryana Noroozi |
This story has been updated to reflect new information.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed the identity of the Monterey Park shooter during a press conference held on the evening of Jan. 22. The suspect, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white van in the City of Torrance. Luna confirmed that there are no other outstanding suspects.
The investigation is still ongoing as detectives gather more information and work on “determining the motive behind this extremely tragic event,” stated Luna.
Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) said she hopes residents now feel a sense of safety.
“The community was in fear thinking that they should not go to any events because there was an active shooter,” Chu said. “You are no longer in danger.” But says she still has questions about the attack.
Community celebration disrupted by mass shooter
Eastvale Councilmember Jocelyn Yow was celebrating with her family as they prepared to ring in the Chinese Lunar New Year on the night of Jan. 21, but her night and new year quickly changed when she heard the news of a mass shooting.
Less than 40 miles away at a new year celebration in Monterey Park, a city in southeastern Los Angeles County, a gunman walked into a ballroom dance venue and opened fire on civilians. The shooting resulted in the death of 10 people and at least 10 others were injured.
Yow was invited to speak at a Women’s March in downtown Riverside on Jan. 22, which marked both the start of the Lunar New Year and the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the ruling that established the right to an abortion.
Yow explained that she almost canceled her appearance at the event because of the news. The Monterey Park mass shooting is another incident that targeted the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Roughly 65% of the 60,000 residents in Monterey Park identify as Asian.
With the threat to reproductive rights and targeted mass shootings, Yow said these two things may appear to be different, but they are connected by two things: control and power.
“Let me be clear: they are connected. They are about power and control over women. They’re about control over marginalized folks. They’re about control over communities of color,” Yow emphasized.
“I remember scrolling through my social media. I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is really happening,’” said Yow. “And I thought about the Atlanta shooting. Two years back, there was an Atlanta shooting where they [also] targeted the Asian community.”
In March 2021, eight people were killed during a series of shootings that occurred at three spas. The mass shooting caused outrage among many who believed the incident was another attack in a series of anti-Asian hate actions.
Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, defines a mass shooting as involving the death or injury of four or more people. Last year, there were 648 mass shootings in the U.S. In 2023, the organization has identified 33 mass shootings in the U.S. so far.
One resident’s account of the shooting
On the eve of the Lunar New Year, Monterey Park resident Wynn Liaw heard what she believed to be fireworks, and then what she believed were news helicopters. Liaw was excited because she thought the buzz around the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration garnered media attention after events were halted for two years due to COVID-19.
“This is the first time they returned the celebration since COVID. So everybody is excited… China is rising, so the Chinese celebration is getting bigger and bigger,” Liaw said. “So that’s why I thought the news was covering it.”
The Monterey Park 2023 Lunar New Year Festival, which people travel across Southern California to attend, wrapped up for the evening and was scheduled to resume on Sunday morning.
When Liaw awoke on new year’s morning she heard more of what she believed to be news helicopters. She was mistaken.
Eager to see the coverage of her community for herself, Liaw walked two blocks from her home to Garvey Avenue. This is where she soon learned that the helicopters actually belonged to law enforcement and not the media. Instead of news cameras, she saw caution tape and learned about the mass shooting that killed 10 people and injured at least 10 more. The second day of Monterey Park’s Lunar New Year Festival was canceled.
“I’m shocked because this kind of thing doesn’t happen in this neighborhood,” Liaw said. At first she heard it may have been gang related. “But then I heard another theory. It might be anti-Chinese.”
Liaw said she always felt safe in Monterey Park, a community with a population of approximately 60,000 people and largely made up of Asian residents.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased
Liaw became fearful of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020 as they appeared at alarming rates amid the pandemic. According to the Department of Justice’s 2020 Hate Crime Statistics annual report, there were 279 anti-Asian incidents reported in 2020, a 77% increase since 2019. Still, Liaw felt a sense of comfort in Monterey Park and felt grateful for her community as she learned about the racially-motivated crimes in New York and San Francisco.
“I [felt] maybe if I stay in Monterey Park I will be insulated,” Liaw said.
She said if this is a hate crime, then the perpetrator picked the place for a “big” hate crime. “All the Chinese [people] are out on the street,” Liaw said. “An opportunity.”
Liaw, who immigrated from Malaysia in 1982, commented that she is uncertain about the future of Asian people in the U.S. She said she plans to send pictures to her friends and family in China and to show them, firsthand, the psychological trauma that Asian Americans live with hate crimes happening regularly.
“We don’t want to dominate anyone and we don’t want to harm anyone. We’re just like everybody else,” she said. “Who wants to live in a nation that is so violent?” Liaw asked. “I am concerned. For me, freedom is to be able to walk down the street freely, carefree.”
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition addressing anti-Asian hate in the U.S, released a statement following news of the Monterey Park mass shooting, calling the incident “a nightmare.”
“Our hearts are with the loved ones of all those whose lives were taken, those who were injured, and the countless others who were shaken by fear that no one should have had to experience,” the statement read. “This tremendous act of violence, on one of the most important days of the year for many Asian Americans, at a place where Asian American families come to gather and celebrate, is sending shockwaves through our community.”