LOS ANGELES — Diana Tom was out dancing with friends Saturday night, ringing in the Lunar New Year at Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, when the celebration was tragically cut short.
Tom, 70, was mortally wounded when a gunman opened fire at her beloved dance studio, killing 11 and wounding nine in an attack that has crushed the local community — the heart of the region’s Chinese and Asian American diaspora — and shocked the nation.
Family members on Tuesday identified Tom as the woman who later died in the hospital of injuries from the shooting, bringing the death toll to 11. She died Sunday.
“Diana was a hard-working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance,” the family wrote in a statement provided to The Los Angeles Times. “To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others.”
All of the deceased were identified Tuesday. In addition to Tom, they are My Nhan, 65; Lilian Li, 63; Xiujuan Yu, 57; Hong Jian, 62; Muoi Ung, 67; Valentino Alvero, 68; Yu-Lun Kao, 72; Chia Yau, 76; Wen-Tau Yu, 64; and Ming Wei Ma, 72. (Li’s first name was initially misspelled by the coroner.)
Nine others were injured in the attack.
The gunman was identified by police as a 72-year-old man who investigators believe had frequented the dance studio, as well as a second dance hall in Alhambra, which he also tried to attack Saturday night but was confronted and stopped by a man working the front desk.
The next day, the suspect fatally shot himself as police approached his van in a Torrance parking lot, according to officials.
“On behalf of Diana Tom, we, her family, condemn this senseless act of violence that has uprooted the lives of all the victims, their families and the entire API community at large,” Tom’s family wrote in a statement. They asked for donations to a victims fund launched by the Southern California branch of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and several other organizations supporting the Asian American Pacific Islander community.
“Diana would be happy to know her legacy will continue with the GoFundMe that will support all of the victims’ families of this tragedy,” the statement said. “We honor and support all of those affected.”
Tom was among four victims of the shooting treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Another one of the survivors — a 73-year-old woman — was released Monday. The other two remain at the hospital, one in serious condition, the other recovering, according to a statement from officials Monday. The conditions of the others with injuries were not immediately clear.
Alvero was remembered by family members as a “loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three nieces and nephews like his own children.
“Please remember that Valentino (Alvero) is more than just a headline or a news story,” the family wrote in a statement. “He loved people and hearing about their lives and, in return, he shared his own stories with so much gusto and enthusiasm that you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him.”
His family said he loved ballroom dancing and his community and was the “life of any party.”
“We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven,” they wrote.
Alvero was a Filipino American, according to the Philippine consulate general in Los Angeles, and was a devout Catholic, his family said. They called it a “great travesty” that he didn’t receive his last rites, a sacrament administered before death.
“Our family would like to request all priests and Catholics to pray for him by name, Valentino Marcos Alvero,” the family wrote. “He was a faithful servant of God and we know that he would want the world to lift his family in prayer more than anything.”
Like others at the dance hall Saturday night, Yu was celebrating the approaching Lunar New Year when she was killed.
“After days of uncertainty, anxiety, and waiting in worry, we received the news that my aunt was indeed among the deceased at the incident,” Yu’s niece, Kathleen Fong, wrote on a fundraiser page set up for Yu.
Yu immigrated to the U.S. from China in the early 2010s and was hoping to create a new start with her husband and three children, Fong wrote. Two of Yu’s children are pursuing degrees in sports medicine and kinesiology at California State universities.
“My aunt and uncle have worked tirelessly to support their daughters’ livelihood and education, working odd jobs and taking on labor-intensive occupations to make ends meet,” Fong wrote. “The family has just been able to get by with the support of both parents, but now with one of them no longer in the picture and the steep cost of unanticipated funeral services awaiting them, we have deemed it necessary to reach out to the community for assistance.”
Nhan, a fan of ballroom dancing and all things fashion, was known to loved ones as Mymy, according to her niece, Fonda Quan. She recalls her aunt‘s cheerfulness and eagerness to celebrate the wins of those in her wide circle of friends.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” said Quan, 32, who grew up sharing a home with her aunt, as well as her parents and grandmother. “It’s been difficult to process.”
Nhan grew up in Ho Chi Minh City and immigrated to Rosemead with her family in the 1980s.
“Unfairly, Saturday was her last dance,” her family wrote in a statement. “We are starting the Lunar New Year broken.”
One of Nhan’s longtime instructors, Maksym Kapitanchuk, said her presence breathed life into both the Star Ballroom Dance Studio and Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, the two locations that the gunman targeted Saturday.
“Dance was her life,” he said, adding that she attended classes every night of the week, often bringing friends with her. “She was just the light of the class and the light of the studio.”
Another victim, Ma, was a constant presence at Star — a skilled social connector, friends said, who worked and danced at the studio.
Ma — known affectionately as Mr. Ma — had emigrated with his wife from China, where he had been part of a well-known dance group, said David DuVal, a dance instructor.
“He loved what he did,” he said.
Lily Ko, who has taken a class at Star every Tuesday for two years, recalled seeing Ma teaching another class. He was really good, she remembered thinking.
Her Tuesday classes ended around 10 p.m., and Ma often waited for her so she wouldn’t have to walk to her car alone.
“He made sure I was safe,” she recalled.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles confirmed Kao and Yu were Taiwanese Americans.
One of the victims was a Chinese citizen, according to the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.
Only two days after the tragedy in Monterey Park, another mass shooting in California shocked the nation, leaving seven dead at two rural farms in Half Moon Bay. The suspected gunman in that rampage, a 67-year-old man, has been arrested.
Vice President Kamala Harris announced plans to visit Monterey Park on Wednesday to honor the victims of the Saturday shooting.
It was unclear whether she would also visit Half Moon Bay, or the rural town in the San Joaquin Valley, where a third massacre left six people dead last week.
“Overnight, we became unwilling members of a community who has to mourn the loss of our loved one due to gun violence,” the Alvero family wrote in a statement. “We send our condolences to the other victims and their families who have had to endure this heart-shattering and life-altering tragedy.”