Forty-four hours in America. Three mass shootings. Nineteen lives were destroyed. All in California.
Among the victims in suburban Monterey Park were people aged 57 to 76, ringing in the Lunar New Year on Saturday night at a dance studio in the heart of the city’s Asian-American community.
Then it happened again.
Before the authorities released all their names, seven more were executed on Monday evening in a seaside town in northern California. The victims were immigrant workers who worked the land on a mushroom farm where some of them lived in mobile homes and trailers.
And then again, this time in Oakland.
Communities in large cities and small towns across the US are being treated almost daily as mass shootings occur in workplaces, schools and houses of worship.
The Gov. Gavin Newsom was in a hospital with the victims of the Monterey Park mob on Monday when he was pulled away for a briefing on the rampage in Half Moon Bay.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
The Democratic Party could be referring to the first weeks of 2023 in America, which has already suffered 40 mass shootings this month – more than in any other beginning of the year on record.
A few threads connected the violence in California – elderly Asian gunmen in two of the cases, many victims were African Americans, as well as proximity and time. However, the biggest common denominator is an epidemic of gun violence that the United States seems unable to eradicate.
“Only in America,” Newsom said of the bloodshed. “The destruction is felt for generations in some cases. Communities being torn apart. Nobody feels safe.”
It’s still unclear what prompted Saturday night’s shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.
The majority of the Asian community had gathered on the eve of the Lunar New Year when 72-year-old Huu Can Tran opened fire, authorities said.
A search of the suspect’s home turned up “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition, as well as evidence that led officers to believe he was “making firearms at home,” according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. , Robert Luna.
The gunman fired 42 rounds from a semi-automatic handgun at the dance hall before going to a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra, where a civilian accosted him and threw the gun away, Luna said.
“For many of our Asian-American communities, Lunar New Year is our most important and celebrated holiday,” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans for Justice – Los Angeles. “We come together with families. we eat well. We have parades. (The shooting) is like being, in many parts of America, someone gunned down at a Christmas Day parade.”
Eleven people died.
The victims were identified as Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Lilian Li, 63; Mymy Nhan, 65; Muoi Dai Ung, 67; and Diana Man Ling Tom, 70; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68; Ming Wei Ma, 72; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; and Chia Ling Yau, 76.
Tran was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white van about 30 miles away in Torrance less than a day later, the sheriff said. Authorities said he was familiar with the dance hall.
It’s not clear why he targeted mostly older Asian American patrons during a celebration.
“It’s the year of the rabbit, a symbol of peace and hope,” said California State Assemblyman Mike Fong. “And to have that peace and hope shattered in a matter of minutes … is unfathomable.”
On Monday afternoon, California Assemblyman Marc Berman, a Democrat, joined colleagues on the steps of the state Capitol for a vigil for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he learned of the farm massacre.
“Before we’ve even had a chance to mourn them, there’s been another mass shooting – this time in Half Moon Bay. In my district,” he said tweeted.
California State Senator Josh Becker, a Democrat who represents San Mateo County, told CNN that colleagues at the vigil, after learning of Monday’s shooting, were left asking: “What else can we do?”
Becker added, “We’re proud of California because we have some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But I had to tell you that they don’t care when seven people are dead in your own community, when there are … 11 people dead in Monterey Park. It doesn’t matter a bit.”
Henry Lo, the mayor of Monterey Park, said his community was still processing the violence and grieving the victims there when news of the shooting in Half Moon Bay spread.
“I know exactly what they’re doing,” he said. “It was an uncomfortable déjà vu.”
He added, “In their community, as in Monterey Park, the feelings are disbelief. Why is this happening? And shock and sadness over tragedy, loss of life and more violence.”
Chunli Zhao, 66, who is suspected of killing four people at a California mushroom farm and three others at a nearby site on Monday, was an employee of the farm, according to San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus.
Zhao was taken into custody Monday while parked at the sheriff’s substation with a semi-automatic handgun in his vehicle.
Corpus said the evidence points to “workplace violence.”
Zhao lived in the property where four of the victims were killed, according to a company spokesman.
There are three mobile homes and six trailers for approximately 35 employees on the property. Zhao started working on the farm before it was acquired by a company called California Terra Garden, spokesman David Oates said. The farm’s owners are bringing in grief counselors for employees.
“We know that some of the victims are Chinese, that the perpetrator is Chinese and that this is an agricultural community. They were agricultural workers,” Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose said Tuesday.
Officials in San Mateo County found four dead and one injured at the mushroom farm. Minutes later, three more people were found dead near a trucking facility about two miles away, county officials said. Authorities were alerted to the shooting at approximately 2:20 p.m. Monday.
“He had the opportunity, we believe, to hurt other people, but he targeted individuals that he went after and followed,” Corpus told CNN, referring to the suspect. She said the suspect was not known to local law enforcement before the shooting and was in legal possession of a registered semi-automatic weapon.
“This is one of these issues where, unfortunately, someone crashes and innocent people are killed,” the sheriff said.
Authorities said children may have witnessed some of the shootings.
On Wednesday, the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office released the names of six of the seven victims: Yetao Bing, 43; Qizhong Cheng, 66; Marciano Martinez Jimenez, 50; Aixiang Zhang, 74; Jingzhi Lu, 64; and Zhishen Liu, 73.
Hours after the Half Moon Bay shooting, the bloodshed continued.
On Monday evening, in the Bay Area city of Oakland, one person was killed. Seven others were wounded and in hospital in a stable condition, police said there.
Officers responded just after 6 pm to an alert from ShotSpotter, which is a bullet detection technology, the Oakland Police Department said. They found “some casings” but no victims. During the investigation, officers learned that there had been a shooting between several people, according to a police statement.
Multiple hospitals then began alerting police that they had received multiple patients with gunshot wounds who had transported themselves to emergency rooms.
Up to 50 people were outside filming a music video when “gunfire erupted from multiple shooters in multiple directions,” said the city’s acting police chief, Darren Allison.
It was a “targeted shooting” and investigators are “looking into the possibility of a gang or group connection to this incident,” Allison said.
Across large areas of California this week, residents were left grieving and searching for answers.
Maksym Kapitanchuk, who was a dance instructor for 65-year-old Mymy Nhan, one of the victims of the shooting at the Lai Lai Ballroom, said several elderly residents had been in touch, eager to return to the dance floor.
“I know for a fact, this kind of violence, he will not describe them,” Kapitanchuk said. “They will fight to the end.”