Dancers, grandparents, community builders: All 11 killed in Monterey Park shooting identified
Diana Tom was out dancing with friends Saturday night, ringing in the Lunar New Year at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, when the celebration was cut tragically short.
Tom, 70, was mortally wounded when a gunman opened fire at her beloved dance studio, killing 11 and wounding nine in an attack that has crushed the local community — the heart of the region’s Chinese and Asian American diaspora — and shocked the nation.
Family members on Tuesday identified Tom as the woman who later died in the hospital of injuries from the shooting, bringing the death toll to 11. She died Sunday.
Eleven people are dead after a man opened fire in a dance studio in Monterey Park. Police believe the shooter also targeted an Alhambra studio. Here’s what we know.
“Diana was a hard-working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance,” the family wrote in a statement provided to The Times. “To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others.”
All of the deceased were identified Tuesday. In addition to Tom, they are Mymy Nhan, 65; Lilan Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; Chia Ling Yau, 76; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; and Ming Wei Ma, 72.
(Some of the victims’ names have been updated following the release of a more complete list of names by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.)
Nine others were injured in the attack.
The gunman was identified by police as a 72-year-old man who investigators believe had frequented the dance studio as well as a second dance hall in Alhambra, which he also tried to attack Saturday night but was confronted and stopped by a man working the front desk.
The next day, the suspect fatally shot himself as police approached his van in a Torrance parking lot, according to officials.
“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 wrote in a statement. They asked for donations to a victims fund launched by the Southern California branch of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and several other organizations supporting the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
“Diana would be happy to know her legacy will continue with the GoFundMe that will support all of the victims’ families of this tragedy,” the statement said. “We honor and support all of those affected.”
Tom was among four victims of the shooting treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Two — a 73-year-old woman and 54-year-old man — were released from the hospital this week. The final patient remains hospitalized in critical condition, hospital Chief Executive Jorge Orozco said Tuesday. The conditions of the other people injured in the shooting were not immediately clear.
Search warrants at the home of Huu Can Tran uncovered weapons, ammunition and items that led officials to suspect he was manufacturing firearm suppressors.
Alvero was remembered by family members as a “loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three nieces and nephews like his own children.”
“Please remember that Valentino [Alvero] is more than just a headline or a news story,” the family wrote in a statement. “He loved people and hearing about their lives and, in return, he shared his own stories with so much gusto and enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him.”
His family said he loved ballroom dancing, his community and was the “life of any party.”
“We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven,” they wrote.
Alvero was a Filipino American, according to the Philippine consulate general in Los Angeles, and was a devout Catholic, his family said. They called it a “great travesty” that he didn’t receive his last rites, a sacrament administered before death.
“Our family would like to request all priests and Catholics to pray for him by name, Valentino Marcos Alvero,” the family wrote. “He was a faithful servant of God and we know that he would want the world to lift his family in prayer more than anything.”
Hongying Jian, known to friends and neighbors as Nancy, liked to play volleyball in her free time and would always offer food to neighbors, said Serena Liu, a next-door neighbor. Jian also loved to sing, go out dancing and play the piano.
“She’s a very active person,” Liu said. “She used to say she can make friends with anyone if she wants. She’s a very nice, cute, kind person.”
Jian was from the Sichuan province, and her husband is from Shanghai, Liu said. Jian had planned to go back to China to see her mom, who is in her 90s, a trip she hadn’t been able to make for years due to China’s COVID restrictions.
“We had dinner a month ago or two months ago,” Liu, 33, said of Jian. “They’ve been living here for years.”
Amy De-La-Cruz, another neighbor, said she and Jian shared a love of plants.
“We would constantly give each other pots and talk about plants,” she said. “She gave me a bunch of tomatoes. ... For my birthday she gave me a scarf.”
Both neighbors had heard about the shooting but had no idea someone close to them had been killed.
“People should not be punished for having hobbies,” Liu said.
At the address listed in public records under Jian’s name, a man answered the door Tuesday and confirmed that his loved one had died but declined to provide his name or to be interviewed.
“I’m very sad,” he said.
Like others at the dance hall Saturday night, Xiujuan Yu was celebrating the approaching Lunar New Year when she was killed.
“After days of uncertainty, anxiety, and waiting in worry, we received the news that my aunt was indeed among the deceased at the incident,” Yu’s niece, Kathleen Fong, wrote on a fundraiser page set up for Yu.
Yu immigrated to the U.S. from China in the early 2010s and was hoping to create a new start with her husband and three children, Fong wrote. Two of Yu’s children are pursuing degrees in sports medicine and kinesiology at California State universities.
The first 10 victims in the massacre in Monterey Park after a Lunar New Year festival were in their 50s, 60s or 70s, according to the L.A. County coroner. An identification has not been shared for the 11th.
“My aunt and uncle have worked tirelessly to support their daughters’ livelihood and education, working odd jobs and taking on labor-intensive occupations to make ends meet,” Fong wrote. “The family has just been able to get by with the support of both parents, but now with one of them no longer in the picture and the steep cost of unanticipated funeral services awaiting them, we have deemed it necessary to reach out to the community for assistance.”
Mymy Nhan, who was initially identified by coroner’s officials as My Nhan, was a fan of ballroom dancing and all things fashion, according to her niece, Fonda Quan. She recalled her aunt’s cheerfulness and eagerness to support and celebrate her wide circle of friends and extended family.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” said Quan, 32, who grew up sharing a home with her aunt, as well as her parents and grandmother. “It’s been difficult to process.”
Nhan was from Ho Chi Minh City and immigrated to Rosemead with her family in the 1980s.
“Unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,” her family wrote in a statement. “We are starting the Lunar New Year broken.”
Allen Nhan, a nephew of Nhan, remembered his aunt as the person in his family always checking in on everyone.
“She was always such a good supporter for all of us,” he said. Although he now lives in Texas, he remembers fondly growing up around his aunt and family in the San Gabriel Valley area.
“When I was a lot younger, we had a lot of family get-togethers, whether it be birthdays, Lunar New Year, Christmas,” Allen Nhan said. “She was always checking in on our progress, whether it be high school, basketball games, or now that I have a son — it’s always a constant checking up on us and seeing how we are.”
He said their most recent conversation was just last month after his grandmother died — for whom his aunt had been caring. His aunt had asked that Allen Nhan bring his new baby — not yet 6 months old — to Southern California so she could meet her grand-nephew.
“Then this happened,” Allen Nhan said. “It’s just sad she didn’t get the opportunity because I know how much she really really wanted to meet him.”
One of Nhan’s longtime instructors, Maksym Kapitanchuk, said her presence breathed life into both the Star Ballroom Dance Studio and Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, the two locations that the gunman targeted Saturday.
“Dance was her life,” he said, adding that she attended classes every night of the week, often bringing friends with her. “She was just the light of the class and the light of the studio.”
In the last few days, Allen Nhan said he was able to see some videos of his aunt’s ballroom dancing, and was in awe.
“She dressed up for it, wore the shoes, went the full nine yards for it,” he said. “Seeing a 65-year-old move like that … someone at that age doing all that, that’s still pretty cool to see.”
Yu-Lun Kao, who also went by Andy, had enjoyed dancing for more than 15 years, according to his longtime dance partner, Shally, who declined to give her last name. They would dance Saturdays at Star Dance, where the duo met 15 years ago, and Sundays at Lai Lai. Shally’s nickname for Kao was “Mr. Nice” because he liked to help people and also danced with those who didn’t know how to dance.
Kao, she said, truly loved to dance.
“Anytime when I called him and said, ‘Andy, I’m at the ballroom now,’ he would come,” she said. “Any hour we had time, we never wasted time. We had to come dancing. Dancing makes you happy.”
She and her husband recalled a time when they had gone to a steakhouse and Kao disappeared from the table. They went searching for him and found him in a private party, dancing with a group of people who didn’t know him. Kao pulled Shally in to join.
“He didn’t care, he just go. And people let him dance,” Shally’s husband, Francois, recalled with a laugh. Francois also declined to give his last name. The couple started a fundraiser for Kao’s funeral expenses.
At Star, shooting victim Ming Wei Ma was a constant presence — a skilled social connector, friends said, who worked and danced at the studio.
Ma — known affectionately as Mr. Ma — had emigrated with his wife from China, where he had been part of a well-known dance group, said David DuVal, a dance instructor.
“He loved what he did,” he said.
Ma ran the Star Dance Studio and “built a community that dearly loved and respected him for his kindness and liveliness,” Ma’s loved ones wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses.
Lily Ko, who has taken a class at Star every Tuesday for two years, recalled seeing Ma teaching another class. He was really good, she remembered thinking.
Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Monterey Park on Wednesday to honor victims of one of three mass shootings in her home state in recent days.
Her Tuesday classes ended around 10 p.m., and Ma often waited for her so she wouldn’t have to walk to her car alone.
“He made sure I was safe,” she recalled.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles confirmed Yau, Kao and Yu were all Taiwanese citizens; Kao as a dual Taiwan and U.S. citizen, and Yu lived in the U.S. with a green card, according to Amy Wang, the director for the office. Wang said she wasn’t sure of Yau’s status in the U.S. but said he held a Taiwan passport.
One of the victims was a Chinese citizen, according to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.
Only two days after the tragedy in Monterey Park, another mass shooting Tuesday in California shocked the nation, leaving seven dead at two rural farms in Half Moon Bay. The suspected gunman in that rampage, a 67-year-old man, has been arrested.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced plans to visit Monterey Park on Wednesday to honor the victims of the Saturday shooting.
It was unclear whether she would also visit Half Moon Bay, or Goshen, the rural town in the San Joaquin Valley where a third massacre left six people dead last week.
“Overnight, we became unwilling members of a community who has to mourn the loss of our loved one due to gun violence,” the Alvero family wrote in a statement. “We send our condolences to the other victims and their families who have had to endure this heart-shattering and life-altering tragedy.”
Staff writers Jeong Park and Brittny Mejia contributed to this report.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.