HomeAsian AmericansBrandon Tsay describes confronting Monterey Park shooter as “truly horrific”

Brandon Tsay describes confronting Monterey Park shooter as “truly horrific”

by Jessica Xiao, AsAmNews Staff Contributor

WASHINGTON, DC – “There is courage in all of us, that courage may come to you at any moment.”

That is the message Brandon Tsay, the young man who disarmed the Monterey Park shooter at the Lai Lai Ballroom wants to deliver to America.

For Tsay, that courage came when he wrestle a gun out of the shooter’s hands and pointed it back at the shooter until he fled the scene, saving his studio full of dancers, family and friends from meeting the same fate suffered by those at Star Ballroom Dance Studio 20 minutes earlier.

Tsay’s family owns the Lai Lai Ballroom, where the young hero works at the front desk. Before working at the ballroom, Tsay was studying at Pasadena City College when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He decided to take a break from school to take care of his mother overseas. He took care of her for three years.

“She rapidly declined in health…one day, she went to the hospital and never came back,” he told the LA Times in a video interview.

After returning to Los Angeles, he decided to help his older sister manage Lai Lai Ballroom, a studio founded by his grandmother.

Tsay, along with Juily Phun, a family member of one of the Monterey Park shooting victims, and Monterey Park City Councilmember Henry Low, who was mayor of Monterey Park at the time of the shooting, are all invited guests to President Biden’s State of the Union Address this evening. (Tsay was personally called by President Biden.) They spoke at a briefing and reception hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) on the hill.

Members of Congress taking a photo with State of the Union guests Brandon Tsay, Juily Phun, and Councilmember Henry Lo representing Monterey Park. Photo by Jessica Xiao.

Tsay spoke about the moment he confronted the shooter, prompted by Representative Judy Chu (D-CA, 28th District), although he did not prepare remarks. The confrontation with the shooter was a moment that Tsay describes as “truly horrific” and “still haunts him today.”

“What led me to confront the shooter was instinct, character – how I was raised, and my feelings towards members of my own community,” said the soft-spoken 26-year old. (View a video of his remarks here.)

Juily Phun shared heartfelt and emotional remarks, tearing up as she spoke about representing her family and the larger community at the time of a personal tragedy, feeling both “honored” and “bittersweet.” (View a video of her remarks here.)

“You are the ones in this room that must do the hard work of asking for resources to address the many, many ways AAPI communities show up in these complexities and hard things we cannot name,” she added.

Representative Grace Meng shakes hands with Juily Phun, a family member of one of the victims of the Monterey Park shooting. Rep. Judy Chu introduces Brandon Tsay and Phun to members of Congress. Photo by Jessica Xiao.

Councilmember Lo and multiple members of Congress used the moment to call attention to stricter gun control legislation and draw attention to an assault weapons ban introduced in Congress in January, the day after the Monterey Park shooting.

“These stories also underscore how our streets are flooded with too many dangerous weapons of murder in the hands of those who would terrorize us,” said Representative Chu and CAPAC chair, who announced CAPAC’s support for the proposed legislation.

“I hope that the stories you hear will move everyone here in America to take action. It is time to end gun violence,” said Lo, who recalled contacting Half Moon Bay government officials 48-hours later to offer condolences on the mass shooting two days later.

But the political fight will be challenging and the assault weapons ban faces opposition from many Republicans, noted Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA, 36th District), who implored anyone who cares about gun safety to work with gun safety groups.

“[Representative Judy Chu] said that CAPAC has endorsed the assault weapon ban. I simply want to note that last week, members of the Republican caucus wore assault rifle pins, so that is where we are in terms of this Congress,” said Lieu.

Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA, 5th District) drew attention to the fact that 60 mass shootings affecting 4,200 lives have taken place since the start of 2023. Although it is unclear where those numbers come from, in an article from last week, the New York Times records “more than four dozen” mass shootings this year so far.

“Your actions should be honored not just by words and praise, but by action – no one has to stand between friends, family, and a weapon of war,” Clark added, addressing the guests.

The reception was closed to the press, to protect the Monterey Park representatives in the aftermath of this traumatic event. In his video interview with the LA Times, Tsay describes the press showing up after the shooting as “very scary.”

“Early into the morning, these reporters started showing up at my house, staking up in front of my house and that was very scary. It was like I was reliving the pressures and the stress of the situation that I just encountered. Having those reporters outside, mobs of them, asking me ‘Can you talk about it? What happened that night? What was the guy like? How did you deal with this situation?’ It was just reliving this trauma,” he told LA Times.

In the whirlwind following his heroism, Brandon Tsay says he hasn’t had much time to process, but has made appointments with mental health professionals, recognizing the need for emotional and therapeutic treatment.

This story is a project of “The Stop The Hate campaign and is made possible with funding from the California State Library (CSL) in partnership with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA). The views expressed on this website and other materials produced by Asian American Media, Inc. do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CSL, CAPIAA or the California government. Learn more at capiaa.ca.gov/stop-the-hate.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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