February 1, 2023

Six elderly victims who were killed in the worst mass shooting in Los Angeles County history have been identified after the death toll of the Monterey Park massacre climbed to 11. 

Ming Wei Ma, Mymy Nhan, 65, Valentino Alvero, 68, Diana Tom, 70, Lilian Li, 63, and Xiuhuan Yu, 57, have been named as six of the 11 people shot dead by gunman Huu Can Tran at a ballroom dance hall in Monterey Park on Saturday night.

Two other women in their 60s were killed in the shooting, but they are yet to be identified. It is not yet clear how old Ming Wei Ma was, but police said three men in their 70s and one in his 60s were killed in the shooting. 

It comes as investigators said Tran, 72, had a rifle at home, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and appeared to be manufacturing gun silencers. Police also revealed the gunman was previously arrested for illegally possessing a firearm.

Victim Diana Tom, 70

Diana Tom, 70, (right) was critically wounded in the shooting and later died in hospital on Sunday. Valentino Alvero (left), a father, has also been identified as one of the victims of the shooting

Mymy Nhan, 65, Was One Of The 11 Victims Who Was Killed In The Massacre

Mymy Nhan, 65, was one of the 11 victims who was killed in the massacre 

The First Victim To Be Identified Was Ming Wei Ma (Left), The Owner Of The Ballroom Studio

The first victim to be identified was Ming Wei Ma (left), the owner of the ballroom studio

Gunman Huu Can Tran, 72

Gunman Huu Can Tran, 72 

Tran fired 42 rounds from his 9mm semiautomatic assault weapon at patrons inside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where tens of thousands attended Lunar New Year festivities, killing 11 people and wounding nine. 

He then drove to another nearby dance hall where an employee wrestled a modified 9 mm submachine gun-style semi-automatic weapon away from him.

Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said investigators had not yet established why Tran had gunned down the patrons before killing himself as police closed in on him. 

Six of the 11 victims killed in the massacre have now been identified. All of the dead, six women and five men, were in their 50s, 60s and 70s, the coroner’s office said.

Diana Tom, 70, was critically wounded in the shooting and later died in hospital on Sunday. Her family have described her as a ‘hard-working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance,’ reports ABC. 

‘On behalf of Diana Tom, we, her family, condemn this senseless act of violence that has uprooted the lives of all the victims, their families and the entire API community at large,’ Tom’s family said in a statement. ‘We honor and support all of those affected.’ 

‘On the night of January 21, Diana was at Star Dance celebrating the Lunar New Year by dancing with her friends. To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others.’

Valentino Alvero, a father, has also been identified as one of the victims of the shooting. 

His family described him as ‘a loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three granddaughters fiercely, an uncle who loved his nieces and nephews like his own’.

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‘He loved people and hearing about their lives and in return, he shared his own stories with so much enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him,’ the family said.

The statement said Alvero loved ballroom dancing, was ‘the life of any party,’ and was a devout Catholic. The family asked all priests and Catholics to pray for him.

A Person Lights A Candle At A Makeshift Memorial Site In Front Of The Star Dance Studio In Monterey Park, California, On Monday

A person lights a candle at a makeshift memorial site in front of the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Monday

Police Use Armored Vehicles To Surround A White Cargo Van Where Tran Had Killed Himself After Officers Closed In On Him On Sunday

Police use armored vehicles to surround a white cargo van where Tran had killed himself after officers closed in on him on Sunday

How the massacre and manhunt unfolded 

Saturday, 10.22pm: Gunshots ring out in Star Ballroom Dance Studio

10.29pm: 911 responders receive a call about a shooting in Monterey Park

10.33pm: Police and rescue units start to arrive at the scene 

10.38pm: Officers say the studio has been ‘cleared’ and there are initially an estimated 10 unresponsive victims and two more in critical condition

10.39pm: Tran enters a second dance hall studio, the Lai Lai ballroom in Alhambra. His weapon is wrestled away from him

Sunday: Gunman reportedly enters a local hospital at an unspecified time with apparent fight injuries. He leaves ER before being treated

10.20am: Police locate white cargo van seen leaving scene of shooting 

11.15am: White van in shopping center parking lot is surrounded by police and SWAT

12.30pm: Sheriff’s office say the suspect has barricaded himself in the van 

1pm: Police enter the vehicle after Tran shot himself dead. Evidence linking him to the shootings is found in the vehicle 

‘We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven,’ the family said.

His daughter, Kristenne Alvero, told Rolling Stone: ‘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.’

Mymy Nhan, 65, was among those killed in the massacre. She was a regular at the Star Ballroom for more than a decade, choosing the Los Angeles-area dance hall popular with older Asian Americans as the place to ‘start the year fresh’ with Lunar New Year celebrations, her niece said. 

Her family now takes some solace knowing that Nhan died after an evening of doing what she loved.

‘It is comforting to know that she enjoyed her last dance, even though it was her last dance,’ said her niece, Fonda Quan.

Quan said that her aunt had left the Star Ballroom and was backing her car out when she was shot. Quan said a dance partner who was in the car with her was not injured.

‘Unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,’ Nhan’s family said in a statement. ‘We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly.’ 

The first victim to be identified was Ming Wei Ma, the owner of the ballroom studio. Friends of Ma have revealed that he was the first one to rush towards the gunman when he opened fire.

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Ma’s friend, Eric Chen, told CBS: ‘According to the chat, he was the first to rush the shooter. He was just caring, and other first, people first kind of person.

‘It is heartbreaking and it’s unthinkable that it would happen.’

Instructor Lauren Woods added: ‘He was so adorable to me and I could tell he was the heart of Star Ballroom.

‘So many dancers, teachers and organizers were connected with Ma and I personally will miss him dearly.’

Ming Wei Ma , Right, Is One Of Eleven People Who Were Killed In The Horrific Massacre At The Star Dance Studio In Monterey Park, California, On Saturday Night

Ming Wei Ma , right, is one of eleven people who were killed in the horrific massacre at the Star Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night

1674572448 948 Six Elderly Victims Aged 57 70 Are Identified After Horror Monterey

Investigators are still trying to establish what drove Tran to open fire on the patrons at the ballroom.

A man who said he had been a longtime friend of Tran said that the gunman once frequented the dance hall and another that he also targeted and griped about the way he thought people treated him there.

Sheriff’s deputies from Los Angeles County searched Tran’s home in a gated senior community in the town of Hemet, a little over an hour’s drive from the site of the massacre.

Luna said his officers found a .308-caliber rifle, an unknown amount of bullets and evidence he was making homemade firearm suppressors that muffle the sound of the weapons.

Tran had visited Hemet police twice this month to report he was the victim of fraud, theft and poisoning by family members a decade or two ago in the LA area, Hemet police spokesperson Alan Reyes said. Tran said he would return to the station with documentation but never did.

Authorities have shared little about Tran, who owned a trucking company in Monterey Park from 2002 to 2004, according to California business records.

He was once arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm in 1990 and had a limited criminal history, Luna said. The sheriff could not immediately say if a gun arrest at a time when firearms laws were different would have barred him from owning weapons.

Tran’s ex-wife told CNN they married soon after they met at Star Ballroom, where he offered her free lessons. She said he would become upset if she missed a step dancing, but was never violent toward her.

They divorced five years later, citing irreconcilable differences, Los Angeles Superior Court records show. The couple did not have children, said they had no community property and neither side had to pay alimony.

While she is named in court papers, she asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

His ex-wife’s story was echoed by a friend who told AP that Tran offered to teach new women at both clubs how to dance for free so that he would have a partner.

But Tran was perpetually distrustful and paranoid and would regularly complain that people at the clubs didn’t like him, according to the former friend who requested anonymity to speak about Tran because he wanted to avoid the media spotlight.

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‘He always cast a dubious eye toward everything. He just didn’t trust people at all,’ the friend said. ‘He always complained to me that the instructors … kept distance from him, and according to what he said, many people spoke evil of him.’

Tran eventually moved from the San Gabriel Valley, a melting pot for Asian immigrants, and settled in Hemet, a lower-income community of many retirees 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Los Angeles in Riverside County.

Tran lived in The Lakes at Hemet West, a gated community off a busy road with a view of snow-covered mountains. The development has a par-3 golf course, shuffleboard court and a dance floor. Properties listed for sale ranged from $45,000 to $222,000.

A neighbor, Pat Roth, told KNBC-TV that Tran said he was a ballroom dance instructor in the past and would sometimes show up to dances at the senior community.

‘Didn’t seem like he’d harm a fly, you know. He wasn’t a big guy,’ Roth said. ‘He’d pet your dog when you walked by.’

Hemet police had no records of any incidents involving Tran in the community or calls for service at his home, Reyes said.

The shootings during Lunar New Year celebrations sent a wave of fear through Asian American communities, dealing another blow to a community that has been the target of high-profile violence in recent years and cast a shadow over festivities nationwide.

The massacre was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month and the deadliest attack since May 24, when 21 people were killed in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Tran is the second-oldest mass killer in the U.S. over the last nearly 20 years according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. 

The only older mass killer was a 73-year-old who murdered five people in Yuma County Arizona in 2011 before killing himself. The database tracks every mass killing – defined as four dead not including the offender – committed in the U.S. since 2006.

About 20 minutes after the first attack in Monterey Park, Tran entered the Lai Lai Ballroom in the nearby city of Alhambra.

Tsay, who was in the lobby, told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ that he thought he was going to die.

‘Something came over me. I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him, I needed to take this weapon, disarm him or else everybody would have died,’ Tsay said. ‘When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle.’

Once Tsay seized the gun, he pointed it at the man and shouted: ‘Get the hell out of here, I’ll shoot, get away, go!’

The assailant paused, but then headed back to his van, and Tsay called the police, the gun still in his hand.

‘He saw that he had an opportunity,’ said his father, Tom Tsay, co-owner of the studio. ‘The person was cocking his gun. And he saw the opportunity and he just jumped.’