Monterey Park, California, residents are in disbelief and grappling with immense sadness after 10 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio Saturday night as people were celebrating the Lunar New Year.
"I feel this sense of great loss about the home that I always had," said resident Eric Ching. "It's just, it's just gone. I'll never be able to feel safe here again."
With a population of roughly 60,000, Monterey Park is like a small town nestled within the sprawl of Los Angeles County. The majority of its residents are Asian-American, and for people living there, it can seem like a peaceful oasis amid the clamor of Southern California.
The sense of joy the dance studio brought to the neighborhood has now been shaken, and many people said it will be a challenge to return to normal.
"We usually don't see that kind of crime in this area," Monterey Park resident Yoshi Haishima said.
Hattie Peng visited a growing memorial outside the entrance of the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. She was among those who gathered at the dance studio on Saturday night to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is widely celebrated in East Asian culture.
She said that when the shooting broke out, she heard shooting noises and looked around and saw several bodies lying on the floor.
Peng said her longtime dance partner shielded her during the shooting. He was struck twice in the process and later rushed to the hospital — potentially saving Peng's life. Her dance partner remains hospitalized.
"He's my hero," she said. "I owe him. He covered me."
Many of those at the dance studio were Chinese seniors who were having fun socially dancing at the studio — something that was highlighted in a 2019 Oscar-nominated documentary, "Walk Run Cha-Cha."
The suspect in the shooting was found dead Sunday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the van he used to flee, after being prevented from attacking another dance club, according to authorities, who identified him as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran. His motive is not yet known.
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