The young programmer credited with disarming the 72-year-old suspect in a mass shooting during Lunar New Year celebrations in California has described his “primitive” fight with the gunman.
The man, identified by The New York Times as 26-year-old Brandon Tsai, was in the Alhambra’s Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio office Saturday night watching dancers when he looked up to see the suspect pointing a gun at him.
Armed there to kill
“My heart sank,” he told the newspaper, “I knew I was going to die.”
“That moment,” he said, “it was a primal instinct.” “Something happened there. I don’t know what happened to me.”
He lunged at the man and grabbed the barrel of the gun, beginning the fight of his life.
Tsai, whose grandparents founded the dance hall, was unaware that the suspect, identified by police as Hou Kan Tran, was believed to have killed 10 people and injured 10 more just minutes earlier at another dance hall in nearby Monterey Park.
He said he had never seen a gun in real life – but it was clear that the gunman was not there to rob the place but to kill.
“From his body language, facial expressions, and eyes, he was looking for people,” Tsai told The Times.
Tsai and his family said security footage showed the couple struggling for about 90 seconds before he was able to grab the gun from the suspect.
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He told the newspaper that he immediately pointed at her again and yelled, “Go, get the hell out of here.”
The suspect fled. Hours later, to his death, he shot himself inside a white truck in Torrance, several miles to the south, on Sunday afternoon as police moved in to arrest him.
The motive for the Lunar New Year shooting is unknown
Five men and five women, all in their 50s or 60s, were killed by the gunman in Monterey Park Saturday night.
Police said the cause of the attack, which came as Asian communities around the world celebrated the Lunar New Year holiday, remains a mystery.
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They said they believed the gunman intended to carry out a similar massacre in the Alhambra, and credited whoever disarmed him for saving lives.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said two people disarmed the suspect in the Alhambra — but Tsai and his family, who still run the hall, say video shows him grappling alone with the killer.
Tsai’s older sister Brenda, who runs the company, said the footage showed the gunman’s fierce struggle to control his gun.
“He just kept getting close to him,” she told the Times. “He really wanted the gun back.”