Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Niece of youngest Monterey Park shooting victim says aunt’s dream was derailed by gun violence

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MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (KABC) — After all 11 people who died in the Monterey Park mass shooting were identified Tuesday, stories of how they impacted their communities began to surface, leaving many heartbroken and struggling to understand such a tragedy.

That’s exactly what Kathleen Fong experiences. She is the niece of the youngest victim in the massacre, 57-year-old Xiujuan Yu.

Speaking to ABC News, she said she and her family were struggling to cope with the “devastating and life-changing event.”

She created a GoFundMe for her aunt and shared a heartbreaking story of an American dream derailed by gun violence.

Fong said her aunt moved to the United States from China in the early 2010s.

“My aunt was in the process of creating this future with her husband and children and now it’s heartbreaking that that journey is suddenly cut short,” reads GoFundMe, created by Fong. “She will never be able to experience what she has dreamed of all these years.”

Yu was a mother of three children, two of whom attend California State University and pursue careers in sports medicine and kinesiology.

“My aunt and uncle worked tirelessly to support and educate their daughters, taking on odd jobs and labor-intensive jobs to make ends meet,” Fong said.

She continued, “In person, this still doesn’t feel real. It happened way too fast – we didn’t even get a chance to say a proper goodbye Aunt gets a proper funeral.”

The victims were between 57 and 76 years old. There were six women and five men.

Here are their names as identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office:

My my Nhan, 65

Lilian Li, 63

Xiujuan Yu, 57

Muoi Dai Ung, 67

Hong Ying Jian, 62

Yulun Kao, 72

Chia Ling Yau, 76

Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68

Wen Tau Yu, 64

Ming Wei Ma, 72

Diana Man Ling Tom, 70

Witnesses say about 50 people were in the dance studio when the gunman opened fire on Saturday night. In addition to the 11 dead, about nine people were injured in the shooting.

Friends say Ming Wei Ma, 72, was a dance teacher known for his patience and understanding. They say he gave his life to save others.

“Mr. Ma, who is well loved and respected in the dance community and has been for over 20 years — he tried to stop the gunman and he died,” said friend Eric Chen.

Valentino Alvero’s family released a statement calling the 68-year-old a loving father, devoted son and lover of ballroom dancing.

“Overnight we became involuntary members of a community mourning the loss of loved ones at gunpoint,” the statement said. “We’re frustrated and stuck in this vicious cycle.”

The statement continued, “Most importantly, Valentino is more than just a headline or a piece of news.”

WATCH: Monterey Park in fear as victim stories emerge: ‘It feels like it happened to your family’

“We wish [we] could let him [know] that we will all miss him for the rest of our days on this earth. We hope he danced to his heart’s content to the end and hope he’s dancing in heaven now.”

Yu Lun Kao was from South El Monte. His dance partner, who only asked to be identified as Shally, said he saved her life by using his own body to protect her from the shooter. Neighbors told Eyewitness News that Kao had lived in the same apartment for more than 20 years.

“It’s just hard to process right now because it’s obviously someone we know and have known for a long time,” neighbor Ruth Ortega said. She and her father found out about Kao’s death on Tuesday. They said he was always a nice guy with a green thumb – he loved his plants and always got along with all the neighbors.

“He’s always kind of kept to himself, you know? How very kind and just always helpful to everyone,” Ortega said.

Tom died in a hospital the day after the shooting.

Her family released a statement describing her as a “hard working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance.” The statement continued, saying, “For those who knew her, she was someone who always made every effort to give to others.”

All families and victims affected by the shooting are urged to go to the Langley Senior Center at 400 W. Emerson Avenue where a crisis response team is located.

Additionally, GoFundMe has created a verified fundraiser hub to help and is constantly updating with verified accounts.

You can donate through the Monterey Park Shooting: How To Help hub.

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