MONTEREY PARK, CA – The night ended after the “Moon Approach” celebration at the Lai Lai Ballroom. & Studio in Alhambra, California on Saturday when Brandon Tsai heard the front door close behind him.
“Then I turned around and saw an Asian man holding a gun. My first thought was I’m going to die here, that’s all,” Tsai, 26, told ABC News’ Robin Roberts during an interview Monday on Good Morning America.
Tsai, who helps run the dance hall with his family, said the gunman was “looking around the room” as if he was “looking for targets – people to hurt”.
“He started preparing the weapon and something hit me,” Tsai recalls. “I realized that I had to take his weapon away. I had to take that weapon, disarm him, or everyone would die.”
“When I got the courage, I threw myself at him with both hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a fight,” he added. “We struggled into the lobby trying to get that gun away from each other. He hit me in the face, hit the back of my head.”
Tsai said that during the struggle, he used his elbows to separate the gun from the suspect until he was finally able to wrestle the weapon away and push the man aside. Tsai said he then pointed the gun at the suspect and yelled, “Get out of here! I will shoot! Away!
“I thought he was going to run away, but he just stood there debating whether to fight or run,” Tsai recalled. “I really thought I was going to have to shoot him and he came at me. At that point he turned and walked out the door, jogging back to his van. I immediately called the police, gun in hand.’
Tsai didn’t know it at the time but later learned that the same man, identified by authorities as 72-year-old Huu Kang Chan, had allegedly opened fire at another dance studio in nearby Monterey Park about 20 minutes earlier, killing at least 10 people and 10 were injured.
The mass shooting at the Star Dance studio in the predominantly Asian community of Monterey Park happened just after 10:20 p.m. local time Saturday night, on what was supposed to be the most festive day of the year for people of Asian descent. Tran allegedly fled the scene in a white van and drove to the Alhambra, where he entered the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio before disarming himself, according to authorities.
On Sunday, after a daylong manhunt, police found Tran’s vehicle along a road in Torrance, about 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park. When the police stopped behind the van in a patrol car with marked signs, the car pulled into the parking lot of the shopping center. As the officers exited their patrol car to approach the van, they heard a single gunshot from inside the vehicle. Officers found Tran dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the van, which had a stolen license plate, authorities said.
Lai Lai Ballroom Surveillance cameras of Studio & Studio captured the fight between Tran and Tsai. Tsai told ABC News that the incident left him with bruises all over his body, including his nose and the back of his head.
“I was beaten all night. I couldn’t believe what happened,” he said. “Many people told me how brave I was to face such a situation. But do you know what courage is? Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to feel adversity in order to be afraid when terrible things like this happen.”
“People need courage in such crises, especially the victims, their friends, their families,” he added. “My heart goes out to everyone involved, especially the people at Star Dance Studio and Monterey Park. I hope they find the courage and strength to persevere.”
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