One year after Monterey Park mass shooting, Brandon Tsay is helping his community heal

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Saturday, January 20, 2024
1 year after Monterey Park shooting, Brandon Tsay helps community heal
One year ago, Brandon Tsay was closing up his family business, the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra where he worked as a manager. That's when the Monterey Park mass shooter entered.

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- One year ago, now 27-year-old Brandon Tsay was closing up his family business, the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, where he worked as a manager.

That's when the Monterey Park mass shooter entered with an assault weapon, having just killed 11 people at the nearby Star Ballroom Dance Studio. Tsay lunged at the shooter, disarming him, taking control of his gun, saving the lives of staff and customers who were inside the studio.

"I was thinking about the community and the people inside the studio at the time," Tsay said this week in an interview with ABC7. "I think what really motivated to me to take that first step was the teaching of my family, my mother saying it's better to confront your fears and face danger than just turning a blind eye."

Although Tsay still manages the Lai Lai Ballroom, and studio which his grandmother opened in the 1990s, most of his time is spent as a student now studying sociology at Pasadena City College.

"I feel like my life has changed a complete 180, turned around," he said. "Before this, I was never really the center of attention. But due to recent events and a lot of outreach, I've met so many people I never thought I would be able to see in my life."

From being honored at a Laker game to receiving a standing ovation at the State of the Union address, recognized by President Joe Biden, Tsay says therapy has helped him transform from an introvert to an extrovert and embrace the attention.

But it hasn't been easy.

Monterey Park shooting survivor continues to honor dance partner who shielded her during attack

A couple in Arcadia continue to remember and honor their friend who died when a gunman opened fire inside a Monterey Park dance studio one year ago.

In the months following the shooting, Tsay struggled with his mental health.

"I was very paranoid because the community felt like it was a dangerous environment to be in," Tsay said. "It would be complete strangers out in public and I would be looking over my shoulder, not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I now know from the community healing and people reaching out to me, it seems like there's a lot of positivity out there and I shouldn't let this one incident get to my head and say everyone is bad. Because I should take it with a grain of salt and believe that humans, there's innate good to them."

Although the Star Ballroom in neighboring Monterey Park will not re-open, the dancing has continued at the Lai Lai Ballroom, which Tsay describes as therapeutic.

"We have seen so many new and happy faces since then," he said. "It has been such a journey, to say the least. After the incident, we were very skeptical about whether our community would ever be the same. I'm happy to announce that we're back on track. Everyone is happily dancing together, connecting with one another."

Tsay is using his actions that horrible night one year ago to help the community heal. Last weekend, he organized a community remembrance fair at the Lai Lai Ballroom that included mental health resources.