The residents of Monterey Park, a largely Asian American suburb of Los Angeles, were horrified on Sunday as a mass shooting left 10 people dead in their community. The incident occurred as the Lunar New Year, celebrated as the “Year of the Rabbit” began.
In this city of 60,000 people, decorations such as red lanterns and banners with Chinese characters to celebrate the Lunar New Year could still be seen hanging above a roadway despite the tragic event that occurred.
However, at the site of the dance hall where the shooting took place, the festive atmosphere was replaced with yellow police tape and a heavy presence of armed law enforcement officials.
“This type of event is unusual for our community,” said Wynn Liaw, a resident who went to the popular senior citizens’ venue after hearing about the incident through news reports.
Liaw, a 57-year-old retired veterinarian who has lived in Monterey Park for the past four decades, is struggling to come to terms with the fact that a massacre occurred in the city, specifically at a venue located behind the white-and-green awning that she passes daily on her way to do her shopping.
Liaw stated that the neighborhood is usually considered safe, where residents can walk alone at night without worrying about gun violence as she spoke to the AFP while police helicopters were heard overhead.
According to authorities, on Saturday night, a gunman entered a ballroom and killed five men and five women, and injured at least 10 others.
The tragedy that occurred in Monterey Park was unexpected, as it resulted in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the Uvalde massacre, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in an elementary school in Texas.
Located just a short distance east of downtown Los Angeles, Monterey Park is often referred to as the city’s “new Chinatown.”
Many of the residents in Monterey Park read newspapers in Mandarin, the majority of the business signs are written in Chinese, and a majority of the inhabitants that were approached by an AFP journalist did not speak English.
According to John McKinney, a local prosecutor in the sprawling metropolis of Southern California, this area is considered one of the safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County.
Ken Nim, a 38-year-old IT worker who was walking his dog, said “You don’t see much happening here.” According to him, in the 20 years he’s lived in Monterey Park, the only crime he has experienced is the theft of the catalytic converter from his car. He added, “It’s a really sad thing, this country is getting crazy. We saw mass shootings in a lot of different cities and in other states, but now it is coming to us.”
David Kwan, a security guard originally from Malaysia, expressed shock over the shooting. He said, “I am often faced with violence but in different areas of Los Angeles, but this is the first time that I am experiencing it in my own community.”
Residents of Monterey Park, along the streets that were cordoned off by the authorities, were trying to understand the violence that occurred. They were viewing photos on their phones of the victims who had been killed, lying on the ground in a room that was lit by multicolored spotlights.
Initially, many suspected that the mass shooting was a hate crime. However, the revelation that the suspect was also of Asian origin, as confirmed by the sheriff in the morning, has caused doubts about that interpretation.
Jerry Liu, a 26-year-old truck driver, said “I feel like this is a personal story” as he stood near the hundreds of white tents set up for the Lunar New Year market. The day before, thousands of people had crowded the main market area, located between the meat skewer stands and the fairground. Liu added, “There must be a reason why he targeted that ballroom, otherwise he could have gone to the fair earlier during the day and killed many more people.”
Chester Chong, Chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, suggested a possible motive for the shooting while standing in front of the police cordon. He suggested that the shooter might have been driven by jealousy, as he was not invited to a party where his wife was enjoying herself. He also added, “The problem is, we have too many guns in this country. It’s too easy to grab a gun and do something terrible.”