Residents of “very safe” Monterey Park shocked after shooting in California

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The massacre was the deadliest US shooting since the Uvalde massacre. (File)

Monterey Park:

The “Year of the Rabbit” began Sunday with horror for residents of Monterey Park, the largely Asian-American suburb of Los Angeles, where a mass shooting killed 10 people.

In this city of 60,000, red lanterns and banners in Chinese characters celebrating the Lunar New Year still fluttered down a roadway.

But around the ballroom where the shooting took place, yellow police tape and heavily armed policemen obscured any sign of festivities.

“Things like this don’t happen here,” said Wynn Liaw, a neighbor who came to this popular retirement home after hearing news bulletins.

Liaw, a 57-year-old retired veterinarian, has lived in Monterey Park for the past four decades.

She still finds it hard to believe that a massacre took place here, behind the white-and-green awning of the hall where she passes daily to do her shopping.

“This is a very safe neighborhood, where I can walk alone at night and I don’t have to worry about gun violence,” she told AFP as police helicopters buzzed overhead.

On Saturday night, a gunman entered the ballroom and killed five men and five women, and wounded at least ten others, authorities said.

The mass murder — the deadliest U.S. shooting since the Uvalde massacre, which killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school — took Monterey Park by surprise.

Just a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, Monterey Park is considered the city’s “new Chinatown.”

Residents here read newspapers in Mandarin, most signboards are in Chinese and the majority of residents approached by an AFP journalist do not speak English.

“This area is one of the safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County,” said John McKinney, a local prosecutor in the sprawling Southern California metropolis.

‘So Many Weapons’

“You don’t see much going on here,” added Ken Nim, a 38-year-old IT worker who walked his dog.

Nim said that in the 20 years he has lived here, the only crime he has witnessed is the theft of the catalytic converter from his car.

“It’s really sad, this country is going crazy,” Nam said. “We’ve seen mass shootings in many different cities and in other states, but now it’s coming to us.”

David Kwan, a Malaysian-born security guard, seemed stunned by the shooting.

“I often encounter violence, but in other parts of Los Angeles,” Kwan said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it in my own community.”

Residents along the cordoned off streets tried to make sense of the wave of violence. On their phones, they saw pictures of dead bodies lying on the floor in a room lit by multi-colored spotlights.

Initially, many feared it was a hate crime. But the suspect’s Asian ancestry, confirmed by the sheriff in the morning, has cast doubt on that interpretation.

“I feel like this is a personal story,” said Jerry Liu, a 26-year-old truck driver, near the hundreds of white tents lined up at the Chinese New Year market.

The day before, thousands of people had crowded the large market area, between the meat skewer stalls and the fair.

“There’s a reason he targeted that ballroom. Otherwise, he could have gone to the fair earlier in the day and killed a lot more people,” Liu said.

Before the police cordon, Chester Chong suggested a possible motive: the jealousy aroused in a man who was not invited to a party where his wife was having a good time.

“The problem is we have so many guns in this country,” said Chong, president of the Los Angeles China Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s so easy to grab a gun and do something stupid.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)

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