LEE COUNTY, Fla. — It was a night meant for dancing and celebration as the city of Monterey Park, California, was kicking off the start of the lunar new year but ended in a mass shooting that shocked the world, leaving 11 dead and nine others hurt.
The shooter, 72-year-old, Huu Can Tran was located in a strip mall parking lot where he later shot and killed himself after a standoff.
Many people in the Asian community all over the nation and in the ballroom dance community are showing an outpour of grief and support, leaving some to wonder if this act of senseless violence was a hate crime.
Forensics Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, David Thomas, says without concrete evidence that it indeed was geared towards the Asian community, it's hard to say and with no motive still, he says in his opinion this was an act of targeted violence.
"It was clear targeted violence because you’re right, he looked at dance halls, he could have gone anywhere in that community and I’m sure there were a number of gatherings," normally a weekend filled with days of celebration in the predominately Asian community, bringing in thousands of people.
According to the United States Census, Monterey Parks Asian community is 64.7% the highest in the area with the Hispanic population behind at 26.9%. While the population in Southwest Florida is much smaller, organizations throughout the area are shaken to the core.
Pearl Cruz with the Asian Professionals Association of Southwest Florida says,
"The devastating news of the mass shooting in California shocked our Local Asian Community, especially during what would have been our festive celebration of the Lunar New Year, especially for the Chinese Community. On behalf of the Asian Professionals Association of SW Florida, we extend our deepest condolences and sincere prayers to the family and loved ones of the victims. Our utmost respect, may it bring comfort to know that we are all in thoughts in sympathy."
One member from the Southwest Florida Chinese Association, in a phone conversation told me, expressed fear for his own kids, seeing violence like this increase against the Chinese community over the past several years, the President, Judy Wright of that same organization released a statement,
"The Southwest Florida Chinese Association is shocked and saddened by what seems to be senseless shootings in Monterey Park on Saturday night. Our heart goes out to the families of the victims and to those who were witnesses to this brutal crime. This should have been a time of celebration of the Lunar New Year, but instead, anger and gun violence brought sorrow. Fear should not be a part of the American dream and culture. We need to come together as a nation on all levels to encourage love and peace."
With this concern growing in the Asian community, Thomas says he too has seen the uptick in violence in the group, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic and now he sees it in other groups as well, saying the more society makes things up about a demographic, they begin to believe it and then have to justify those actions against that one group or groups.
"I think that you know right now, that’s the group. It seems like Asians and Jews are the people that are being targeted today," Thomas said.