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‘True courage’ honored as Monterey Park City Council recognizes heroes of mass shooting

Jimmy Ngan and his wife Jenny and children Jolie and Jaycan thank first responders during Monterey Park City Council’s meeting on, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the gunman minutes after the Monterey Park mass shooting, is welcomed to Monterey Park City Council meeting on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 where he received certificates of appreciation. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Adam Ma, of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ office, gives Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the gunman minutes after the Monterey Park mass shooting, a certificate of appreciation award during Monterey Park City Council meeting on, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Monterey Park City Fire Captain Robert Blake attends the Monterey Park City Council meeting with first responders on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 where they received certificates of appreciation. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the gunman minutes after the Monterey Park mass shooting, receives a certificate of appreciation from the Monterey Park City Council during Wednesday’s council meeting on, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

First responders receive certificate of appreciations from the Monterey Park City Council during Wednesday’s council meeting on, February 15, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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A 26-year-old ballroom dance studio operator and the city’s first responders were praised as heroes in an emotional tribute by the Monterey Park City Council Wednesday night, Feb.15, in a city still trying to move on but also still reeling in the aftermath of a gunman’s Jan. 21 rampage that left 11 dead.

Inside the City Council chambers, the public and the council, along with elected representatives from various levels of government and surrounding cities, filled the room with an outpouring of appreciation in a community where just outside City Hall memorials still stand for the dead.

The focus was on the city’s fire and police personnel, and on Brandon Tsay. While working at his family’s Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, Tsay disarmed the gunman who only minutes before opened fire inside of Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park.

“We sometimes lose sight of all of the quiet acts of courage that happen on a daily basis,” said the city’s Mayor Jose Sanchez, his voice pausing with emotion in the chamber. “Let us honor here tonight their acts of courage, not only because it allows us to live freely but because it is necessary for the survival of us as humans and our democratic institutions.”

#montereypark mayor, Jose Sanchez and city council thank Brandon Tsay and MP Police and Fire for their bravery on Jan. 21. pic.twitter.com/UsVH0uYHSK

— Georgia Valdes (they/them) (@ValdesGeorgia) February 16, 2023

The packed council chambers erupted in applause as Tsay received his honors from a city mindful that he likely saved many more lives by thwarting the shooter, wresting away his weapon and kicking him out.

“Courage, true courage, as Brandon showed us, derives from that sense of who we are and the belief that we can dig deep within our soul and do the hard things for the enduring benefit of others,” Sanchez said.

#montereypark honors Brandon Tsay tonight for his bravery on Jan. 21. @PasStarNews@SGVTribune pic.twitter.com/SgxZf3B6nr

— Georgia Valdes (they/them) (@ValdesGeorgia) February 16, 2023

But Tsay, whose stoic demeanor has endeared him to even the president of the United States, directed the praise elsewhere.

“A true hero is someone who could go through their daily lives encountering great turmoil and struggling with with dire trials,” he said. “And I believe that our men and women in uniform here are those people. They are truly heroes.”

The city’s police and fire rescuers were the first on scene to triage the victims at Star Dance Studio. Along with support for families of the victims, city officials have acknowledged the emotional toll the tragedy has had on first-responding personnel.

“Thank you for your heroism and bravery, which has saved countless lives — more than we can ever imagine and we appreciate you,” Sam Diem, who represented Garvey School District, turned to meet Tsay’s gaze as he presented certificates of appreciation to the Monterey Park fire and police personnel, and to Tsay himself.

Other honors were presented during public comment from Monterey Park residents, L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, Assemblymember Michael Fong, Garvey School district, Kiwanis Club of Monterey Park, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Girl Scouts of America.

“Heroes don’t come from the sky, it is the people who stand up to evil in critical moments,” said Jimmy Ngan, who was joined by his family at the podium. “Thank you so much to the fire departments. Thank you so much for the police departments. I know how difficult it was.”

The accolades came after Tsay had last week attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address at Biden’s invitation. Tsay is working to use his newfound recognition to continue support for the AAPI community.

While the plans are only beginning to be laid out, he said he believes that in partnership with American Pacific Community Fund he could focus resources toward mental health services, single-parent households or uplifting education.

He added that while he is new to this endeavor he is excited for the future of the project.

Related links

Why dance can be healing for many seniors after Monterey Park mass shooting
Family, friends cheer on a stoic Brandon Tsay at State of the Union
LA County supervisors ban large-caliber handguns, prohibit guns on county property
‘It’s going to take some time’: Alhambra’s Lai Lai Ballroom seeks to buoy ‘healing process’ after shooting
A kung fu school had a safe space at a revered dance studio. Then came the mass shooting

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