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Monterey Park has a special significance for the Asian community in LA

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We're following tragic news out of California. Last night, 10 people were killed in a mass shooting at a dance hall in Monterey Park, just outside of Los Angeles. Monterey Park is a largely Asian American city, and the shooting happened on the weekend kicking off Lunar New Year celebrations. On the line now is Jeong Park, who reports on Asian American communities for the Los Angeles Times. Good morning.

JEONG PARK: Good morning.

RASCOE: So I gather that you were on the scene not long after the shooting. What can you tell us about what you saw there?

PARK: I was there about an hour after the shooting happened, around 10:22 p.m. It happened at a dance ballroom that's attended mainly by Chinese and Taiwanese Americans. Monterey Park is known as America's first suburban Chinatown. It's where a lot of Chinese and Taiwanese Americans arrive in the U.S. to begin their immigrant life and journey here.

So in this dance ballroom, this shooting happened, and I talked with a - an owner of a restaurant across who said that three people had come into the restaurant - rushed in - and told the owner to shut the door and told the owner that there was a guy with a machine gun who is in the dance ballroom and who is shooting to - you know, is shooting indiscriminately at people. And so far, we know that 10 people have died and 10 people have been injured, and there might have - might be tied to another potential shooting in Alhambra. Authorities are still looking into that right now. But needless to say, it's been a very troubling last few hours for the folks here in LA.

RASCOE: So what are authorities saying about the shooting? You're saying it may be linked to another shooting. They're looking into that?

PARK: Yeah. And really, the authorities have not really said anything much about the motive or whether this was anti-Asian, hate-related, or they haven't really said anything about the victims, who they are. We only know the suspect is male. We don't really know anything else. We know the suspect is still outstanding, so - as in he has not been in custody. So we still do not know where he is. So there's a lot to be known about this shooting at the moment.

RASCOE: And just to be clear, they're not saying this is a hate crime yet. They're still looking into that.

PARK: Yes.

RASCOE: And so what is the significance of this tragedy happening just as Lunar New Year celebrations are under way?

PARK: I was at the Lunar New Year celebration just a few hours ago in Monterey Park before this happened, and this is one of the biggest Lunar New Year celebrations in Southern California and really the country, because Monterey Park has tens of thousands of Asian Americans, Chinese Americans, Taiwanese Americans in the city. So this was supposed to be, you know, one of those moments that signifies returning from the pandemic, returning to celebrating, you know, those events and momentous occasions. And to have, you know, this day end in tragedy - the second day of the Lunar New Year celebration has been canceled due to the shooting. It's just been a tragic last few hours for the people here in Monterey Park in San Gabriel Valley and beyond, I think.

RASCOE: That's Jeong Park, the Asian American community's reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Thank you so much for joining us.

PARK: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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