Asian Americans across the country are suffering after a shooting in Monterey Park left 11 people dead and 10 injured on Saturday. Just days later, a shooting in Half Moon Bay targeting Chinese and Hispanic farmworkers resulted in seven deaths and one injury.
Both attacks in California were carried out by elderly Chinese men against members of their own communities after a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic left Asian Americans fearful of becoming victims of violence because of their race or ethnicity.
“Many of our elders in particular have been very afraid to go shopping, to go out, because we see the news of what’s happening to other Asian American elders,” said Yvonne Kwan, assistant professor of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at San Jose State University.
There unfortunately is precedent for that fear. In Jan. 2021, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee died two days after he was shoved to the ground in San Francisco while taking a walk. In March 2022, a man was charged with attempted murder after he punched an elderly Asian woman over 100 times in Yonkers, N.Y.
In Monterey Park, the 72-year-old gunman opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on the first day of Lunar New Year, considered to be China’s most important holiday, as festivities across the city were underway.
He then fled to the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra, where he was immediately disarmed by a 26-year-old man. Police discovered the gunman dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a white van on Sunday.
Everytown, an organization fighting to end gun violence, declared it the deadliest mass shooting since the Robb Elementary School Shooting last May in Uvalde, Texas. It is the 39th mass shooting this year.
As the country began to mourn, news of another rampage in Half Moon Bay broke Monday afternoon.
The gunman reportedly killed four victims at Concord Farms before heading to another farm, where police found an additional three people dead, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said at a news conference.
Police believe the gunman worked with the victims and that the shooting constituted workplace violence.
“This kind of shooting is horrific. It’s a tragedy we hear about all too often, but today it’s hit home in San Mateo County,” Corpus said.
With its 65 percent Asian population, Monterey Park is known for hosting one of Southern California’s largest Lunar New Year festivals. This year, California made Lunar New Year an official state holiday.
Activists say these types of killings will further traumatize the country’s Asian diaspora.
“This tremendous act of violence, on one of the most important days of the year for many Asian Americans, at a place where Asian American families come to gather and celebrate, is sending shockwaves through our community,” read a statement released by Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks violence against the country’s Asian population.
“No matter why or who, the undeniable truth is that Asian communities are hurting from this mass shooting.”
At a news conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said that someone called one of the hospitals where some of the victims might’ve been taken to say they wanted to “finish the job.”
“That’s absolutely horrible,” he said. “These victims and survivors are dealing with so much. Let’s not traumatize them more.”
Kwan said that restitution in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay needs to come from the communities themselves to determine appropriate resources and policies that can be enacted within the areas, while addressing the trauma inflicted by such an atrocity.
Mental health care can be one of one of the biggest hurdles, she added.
“We’re fighting against generations of shame and this taboo against talking about your mental health,” she said. “Even growing up, to talk about going to a therapist is like talking about going to the crazy doctor.”
While there are more mental health resources now than ever before, Kwan would like to see more government funding for local municipality-run programs and resources, in addition to community-based organizations and outreach initiatives.
“We definitely need more practitioners who are from communities, speak the languages within these communities and are well equipped, aware and experts in the ways of community like cultural forms, communication and practices,” she said.
GoFundMe has launched a page dedicated to the victims of the Monterey Park shooting. Inside the city, a resource hub for survivors has been set up at Langley Senior Center. At Half Moon Bay, Ayudando Latinos a Soñar, a nonprofit working with victims of the tragedy, is collecting donations on their website.
The following services are available to the public:
- Asian Mental Health Collective therapist directory US Therapist Directory – Asian Mental Health Collective (asianmhc.org)
- Changing Tides in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo offers stipends to AAPI youth for counseling Changing Tides (thechangingtides.org)
- Los Angeles County Department for Mental Health 24/7 Access Line 1-800-854-7771
- Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988