Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
WASHINGTON — The hero who wrestled a gun away from the Monterey Park mass shooter last month and likely prevented a second tragedy from occurring in nearby Alhambra is expected to be among the local residents attending President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night as invited guests.
While the White House has not yet released Biden’s guest list for the speech before a joint session of Congress, scheduled for 6 p.m. PT, Brandon Tsay is expected to be in the gallery to be recognized for his life-saving bravery on the night of Jan. 21.
After shooting 20 people, 11 of them fatally, at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Hemet resident Huu Can Tran, 72, went to the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra. Seeing that Tran was armed, Tsay, whose family owns the ballroom, confronted him and, after a brief struggle, was able to take possession of the gun. Tran fled and was found the next day in Torrance, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In remarks at a Lunar New Year celebration at the White House on Jan. 26, Biden said, “I spoke with Brandon Tsay, a genuine hero. This 26-year-old kid, whose family has owned a dance studio for some time, as people were ending the celebration that night on the Lunar New Year. And as we all saw on the video, he heard the front door close and saw a man pointing a gun at him.
“Instead of running — Brandon said he thought he was going to die, but then he thought about the people inside. Think about this now. Just think about this in reality. And in that moment, he follows instinct … and had the courage to act. And he did. He charged the gunman, wrestled him to the ground, and took away his semiautomatic pistol from him …
“Brandon prevailed, but think about what could have happened had he not done this. I really mean it. You know, I think sometimes we underestimate incredible acts of courage. Someone shooting has a semi-automatic pistol aimed at you and you think about others. That’s pretty profound.”
At a Lunar New Year celebration in Alhambra on Jan. 29, Tsay was honored by Police Chief Kelley Fraser and city officials as well as Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Chu has announced that her State of the Union guest will be Dr. Juily Phun, the family member of a victim of the mass shooting. Phun is a multiethnic refugee from Vietnam who grew up in Monterey Park and now lives nearby in Los Angeles County. Her scholarship, research, activism, and community are in the San Gabriel Valley.
Phun is a California Faculty Association Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Caucus member and professor in Asian and Asian American Studies at the Cal State L.A. College of Ethnic Studies.
“I am so honored and humbled to welcome Dr. Phun to Washington to be my guest for President Biden’s State of the Union,” said Chu. “In the aftermath of the recent horrific violence in our hometown Monterey Park, her presence Tuesday will underscore the massive toll gun violence exacts on families.
“While last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was a step forward in protecting our communities, our work in Congress isn’t finished. I will continue to push for federal solutions to prevent future violence, including by banning assault weapons and magazines, instituting universal background checks on weapon purchases, and ensuring gun safety and mental health resources are translated and accessible to AAPI communities in my district and across the nation.”
Monterey Park, a city of about 61,000 in the San Gabriel Valley, is 65% Asian American. The city is widely recognized as the first suburban Chinatown in the U.S., and the shooting there is the worst in Los Angeles County history.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) has announced that his State of the Union guest will be Councilmember Henry Lo, who served as mayor of Monterey Park from December 2021 to January 2023, including the day of the shooting.
“As Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay, and too many other communities throughout California and across the country grieve the tragic loss of life from mass shootings, it’s an honor to be joined by Councilman Henry Lo at this year’s State of the Union address,” said Padilla. “Henry’s leadership has been instrumental in honoring the lives of those we lost in Monterey Park and helping the community heal after such a devastating loss.
“Americans across the country are heartbroken by the senseless and unnecessary violence that continues to impact so many of our friends, family, and loved ones. We have to do better for our communities and recommit ourselves to passing sensible, nationwide gun safety laws that will save the lives of thousands of people each year.”
“Monterey Park is a city of immigrants, a city that embodies the American Dream,” said Lo. “But on what should have been a day of celebration for us, Monterey Park joined the long list of cities in America that have woken up to the tragic reality that a mass shooting has claimed the lives of its community members. It is urgent that we take federal action to ensure that no other community in America has to mourn lives lost to senseless gun violence.
“The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was an important step to protecting our communities, and I thank Sen. Padilla for his continued advocacy at the federal level for common-sense gun safety reforms that will keep our communities safe.”
Lo is the son of working-class immigrants who came to California seeking the American Dream and was the first in his family to attend college. He received his bachelor’s degree in government from Colby College and a Master in Public Administration degree from CSU Northridge.
Lo’s history of public service spans over 20 years. From 2003 to 2020, he served on the Garvey Elementary School District Board of Education. As a board member, he co-founded the Garvey Education Foundation, which has raised community support for the schools in the Garvey Elementary School District since its founding in 2007.
Padilla is a staunch advocate for life-saving gun safety reforms. In June 2022, he voted in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The law is the most significant gun safety legislation in almost 30 years and helps to keep guns away from abusers, improve background checks, and increase state funding for the implementation of red flag laws.
Padilla believes there is still far more to do to keep communities safe from gun violence, including expanding background checks for the sale or transfer of all firearms and banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.