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

"She will never be able to witness what she dreamed of for all these years," said the niece.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023
Trip to bathroom could've saved Monterey Park shooting victim's life
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The niece of 57-year-old Xiujuan Yu, the youngest Monterey Park shooting, said just before the gunfire erupted, one of her friends went to the bathroom. Yu offered to go along with her, but was convinced by another woman to stay in the ballroom.

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 emerge, leaving many heartbroken and struggling to comprehend such tragedy.

That's what Kathleen Fong is experiencing. She's the niece of the massacre's youngest victim, 57-year-old Xiujuan Yu.

Yu moved to the U.S. from China in the early 2010s. She was also the mother of three children, two of which are attending California State Universities, pursuing careers in sports medicine and kinesiology.

Fong spoke with Eyewitness News and said the night of the shooting was her aunt's first time visiting the Star Dance Studio.

"She had spent the night preparing Lunar New Year's dinner with family and afterward said, 'I'm going to go out with my friends and celebrate the rest of the night,'" she said.

Fong said just before the shooting, one of her friends went to the restroom. Yu offered to go along with her, but was convinced by another woman to stay in the ballroom.

"So the other friend goes to the bathroom, but then two minutes later, she hears a ruckus outside and she's like, 'What's going on?'" said Fong. "When she comes out, she sees my aunt on the floor and her other friend slumped in her chair. I was just in denial, like 'No way this could happen, not to my aunt. There are moments where I just let it sink in and it just gives you a pit in your stomach."

After the shooting, Yu's family was left searching local hospitals and praying she'd turn up alive somewhere. Yu also leaves behind a husband who is devastated.

"I've never seen my uncle cry before," said Fong. "My uncle has always been smiley. Any time he comes over, he's like, 'How are you doing?' with a smile on his face and everything. Now that his wife is not in the picture, I wonder if he's still going to be able to greet us that way."

Fong created a GoFundMe for her aunt, sharing a heartbreaking story of an American dream derailed by gun violence.

The victims ranged in age from 57 to 76. They 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

Hongying Jian, 62

Yu Lun Kao, 72

Chia Ling Yau, 76

Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68

Wen Tau Yu, 64

Ming Wei Ma, 72

Diana Man Ling Tom, 70

One of the victims was a dance instructor, known for his patience and understanding, and another was a grandmother who loved to dance and was devoted to her family.

Witnesses say about 50 people were inside the dance studio when the gunman opened fire Saturday night. Besides the 11 deceased, about nine people were injured in the shooting.

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

"Mr. Ma, who is very beloved and respected in the dance community, and he's been doing that for over 20 years - he was trying to stop the shooter, and he passed away," friend Eric Chen said.

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

"Overnight, we became unwilling members of a community who has to mourn the loss of our loved ones due to gun violence," read the statement. "We are left frustrated, stuck with this vicious cycle."

Though still distraught, the family of one of the victims released a statement Monday night, calling the 68-year-old a loving father, a dedicated son and a lover of ballroom dancing.

The statement continued saying, "Most importantly, please remember that Valentino is more than just a headline or a news story."

WATCH: Monterey Park in anguish as stories of victims emerge: 'It feels like it happened to your family'

The Monterey Park community continues to feel the pain of the mass shooting that left 11 people dead, and many are in anguish as heartbreaking and loving stories of the victims 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 that he danced to his heart's content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven."

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

"It's just hard to process right now because obviously it's someone we know and we've known for a long time," said neighbor Ruth Ortega. She and her father found out about Kao's death on Tuesday. They said he was always a kind person with a green thumb - he loved his plants and always got along with all neighbors.

"He's always kind of, like, kept to himself, you know? Like very nice and just always helpful to everyone," said Ortega.

Tom died at a hospital one 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 "To those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others."

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

In addition, GoFundMe has launched a hub of verified fundraisers to help and is continually being updated with verified accounts.

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

As a Monterey Park senior center transforms into a crisis response hub for those impacted, GoFundMe has launched a website of verified fundraisers to help.