A man has recounted his desperate struggle to seize the gun from an attacker who police say fatally shot 11 people during a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California in the US.
Brandon Tsay was in the lobby of the Lai Lai Ballroom in the city of Alhambra when he confronted and disarmed a man who entered the venue carrying a gun on Saturday night, he recounted in multiple media interviews on Monday.
“My heart sank, I knew I was going to die,” the 26-year-old told the New York Times.
Police later said the gunman was the same man who fatally shot 10 people – five men and five women, all in their 50s or 60s – at a ballroom during a Lunar New Year celebration in nearby Monterey Park shortly beforehand. They identified the suspect as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran. An 11th unidentified victim has since succumbed to injuries sustained during the attack.
“That moment, it was primal instinct. I don’t know what came over me,” Tsay told the newspaper.
“From his body language, his facial expression, his eyes, he was looking for people,” he said.
Screen grabs from security footage obtained by ABC News appeared to corroborate Tsay’s account, with police later crediting those who disarmed the attacker with preventing him from carrying out a similar massacre in Alhambra.
Tsay, whose grandparents founded the family-owned ballroom, also told ABC that during the struggle the gunman “was hitting me across the face, especially in the back of my head. I was trying to use my elbows to separate the gun away from him.”
When he finally got hold of the gun, Tsay said he pointed it at the attacker, who hesitated before fleeing.
Tsay said he then called police “with the gun still in my hand”.
Tran was later found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gun wound inside a white van in Torrance, California, with authorities saying they heard a single gunshot as they moved in to arrest him.
On Monday, police were still searching for a motive behind the attack, which came as Monterey Park was holding its first in-person celebration of the Lunar New Year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
The incident sent shock waves through the predominantly Asian-American community of 60,000 people, with violent incidents of anti-Asian hate fuelled by the pandemic still fresh in the minds of many Asian-American US citizens.
The attack also marks the 36th mass shooting in the US this year, the fifth mass murder and the deadliest in the US since 21 people were killed in a school in Uvalde, Texas in May according to the Gun Violence Archive website. The country saw 647 shootings with four or more victims in 2022, according to the website.
Separately, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported last year that there had been 61 “active shooter” incidents in the US in 2021, up 52 percent from 2020 and the highest number on record.
The department defined an “active shooter” as someone engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a public space in a seemingly random fashion. About one in five “active shooter” incidents in 2021 were also mass killings.