Forty-four hours in America. Three mass shootings. Nineteen lives wiped out. Everything in California.
The victims in suburban Monterey Park included people between the ages of 57 and 76 who were celebrating Lunar New Year Saturday night at a dance studio in the heart of the city’s Asian-American community.
Then it happened again.
Before authorities released all their names, seven other people were shot to death Monday afternoon in a rural coastal town in Northern California. The victims were immigrant workers working the land on a mushroom farm where some also lived in mobile homes and trailers.
And then again, this time in Oakland.
Communities in America’s big cities and small towns are upended almost every day as mass shootings at workplaces, schools and places of worship become commonplace.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had been at a hospital with victims of the Monterey Park massacre on Monday when he was brought out for a briefing on the Half Moon Bay riot.
“Tragedy upon tragedy,” Newsom tweeted.
The Democrat could have been referring to the first weeks of 2023 in the United States, which has already suffered 40 mass shootings this month, more than at any other start to the year on record.
Some threads connected the violence in California: Asian elders armed in two of the cases, many victims were Asian-American, as well as proximity and time. However, the biggest common denominator is an epidemic of gun violence that the United States seems incapable of eradicating.
“Only in the United States,” Newsom said of the bloodshed. “The devastation is felt for generations in some cases. Torn communities. No one feels safe.”
It is not yet clear what prompted the Saturday night shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.
Most of the city’s Asian community had gathered on Lunar New Year’s Eve when Huu Can Tran, 72, opened fire, authorities said.
A search of the suspected gunman’s home turned up “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition, as well as evidence that led officials to believe he was “manufacturing homemade firearm suppressors,” according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna. .
The gunman fired 42 rounds from a semi-automatic pistol in the ballroom before heading to a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra, where a civilian attacked him and seized his weapon, Luna said.
“Lunar New Year for many of our Asian American communities is the most important and celebrated holiday we have,” said Connie Chung Joe, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “We met with the families. We eat well. We have parades. (The shooting) is equivalent to, in many parts of the United States, someone being shot to death in a Christmas Day parade.”
Eleven people died.
The victims were identified as Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hongying Jian, 62; Lilian Li, 63; MymyNhan, 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 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a white pickup truck about 30 miles away in Torrance less than a day later, the sheriff said. Authorities said he was familiar with the ballroom.
It’s unclear why he targeted the mostly elderly Asian-American customers during a celebration.
“It’s the year of the rabbit, a symbol of peace and hope,” said California State Assemblyman Mike Fong. “And for that peace and that hope to be shattered in a matter of moments…is unfathomable.”
On Monday afternoon, California Assemblyman Marc Berman, a Democrat, joined his colleagues on the steps of the state Capitol for a vigil for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting when he learned of the massacre at the farm.
“Before we’ve had a chance to mourn them, there’s another mass shooting, this time in Half Moon Bay. In my district,” he said. tweeted.
California state Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat representing San Mateo County, told CNN that colleagues at the vigil, after hearing about Monday’s shootings, wondered, “What else can we do?”
Becker added: “We pride ourselves on the fact that California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But I have to tell you, that doesn’t matter one bit when there are seven people dead in your own community, when there are… 11 people dead in Monterey Park. It doesn’t matter one bit.
Henry Lo, the mayor of Monterey Park, said his community was still processing the violence and mourning the victims there when news broke about the Half Moon Bay shootings.
“I know exactly what they are going through,” he said. “It was awkward, creepy déjà vu.”
He added: “In his community, like in Monterey Park, the sentiments are one of disbelief. Why is this happening? And shock and just sadness at a tragedy, loss of life and more violence.”
Chunli Zhao, 66, suspected of killing four people at a California mushroom farm and three others at a nearby site on Monday, was an employee at the farm, according to San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus.
Zhao was arrested Monday while parked at a sheriff’s substation with a semi-automatic pistol in his vehicle.
Corpus said the evidence points to “workplace violence.”
Zhao lived on the property where four of the victims died, according to a company spokesman.
There are three mobile homes and six trailers for about 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 owners are bringing in grief counselors for the employees.
“We know that some of the victims were Chinese, that the perpetrator was Chinese, and that it was from a farming community. They were farm workers,” Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose said Tuesday.
San Mateo County officers found four people dead and one injured at the mushroom farm. Moments later, three more people were found dead near a trucking facility about two miles away, county officials said. Authorities were alerted to the shooting around 2:20 p.m. Monday.
“We think he had an opportunity to hurt other people, but he had targeted individuals that he chased and chased,” Corpus told CNN, referring to the suspect. She said local police did not know the suspect before the shooting and that she was in legal possession of a semi-automatic weapon that was registered to him.
“This is one of those issues where, unfortunately, someone breaks and innocent people die,” the sheriff said.
Authorities said some of the shootings may have been witnessed by children.
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 night, in the Bay Area city of Oakland, one person died. Seven others were injured and hospitalized in stable condition, police said there.
Officers responded just after 6 p.m. to an alert from a ShotSpotter, which is gunshot detection technology, the Oakland Police Department said. They found “several casings” but no victims. During the investigation, officers learned that there was a shooting between multiple people, according to a police statement.
Several hospitals then began to alert the police that they had received several patients with gunshot wounds who had been transported to emergency rooms.
Up to 50 people were filming a music video when “shots erupted from multiple shooters in multiple directions,” said the city’s interim 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.
In vast swaths of California this week, distraught residents have been left grieving and searching for answers.
Maksym Kapitanchuk, who was a dance instructor for Mymy Nhan, 65, one of the victims of the Lai Lai dance hall shooting, said some older residents have been in touch, eager to get back on the dance floor.
“I know for a fact that this kind of violence will not bring them down,” Kapitanchuk said. “They’re going to be fighting until the end.”