They came to Monterey Park's Star Ballroom Dance Studio to revel in a shared passion for dancing and to celebrate Lunar New Year.
As many were preparing to leave the dance hall late Jan. 21 and continue what should have been a joyous night of reflection and new beginnings, a gunman opened fire. Dreams, hopes and the lives of loved ones were shattered when 11 people, ranging in age from 57 to 76, were struck and killed by the gunfire.
They were beloved fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, uncles and aunts, grandparents, friends and dance partners.
Scroll down to learn more about the shooting victims, their lives and what was lost. More video and information will be added as it becomes available.
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Valentino Alvero, 68
Family members described Valentino Alvero as a loving father, dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three granddaughters fiercely, and an uncle who loved his nieces and nephews as through they were his own children.
Alvero, like all of those killed in Jan. 21 tragedy, had a passion for ballroom dancing. He was considered the "life of any party," family members said in a statement.
"We wish we could let him know that we will all miss him for the rest of our days on this earth," the family said in a statement. "We hope that he danced to his heart's content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven."
Hong Jian, 62
Hong Jian had been dancing with her husband Jeff Liu when they heard the sound of gunfire. He told NBC News he thought the sounds were fireworks for the Lunar New Year celebration.
Then, he saw his wife of nearly 40 years fall to the ground.
"I'm calling my wife, 'Look, look, wake up, wake up!'" said Liu, who suffered a shoulder injury in the shooting.
Family members said Jian, who used the name Nancy, enjoyed volleyball, dancing, singing and music. Liu said they had been going to the Star Ballroom Dance Studio together for about a decade.
The couple have a daughter.
Yu Kao, 72
Friends in the dance community called Yu Kao "Mr. Nice" because of the way he welcomed newcomers and helped teach them the basics.
A longtime dance partner said Kao helped protect her during the dance hall shooting.
The woman named Shally said she hid under a table with Kao when the gunfire started. She realized soon after the gunfire that he had been shot.
"He tried to cover us," Shally said.
Ming Wei Ma, 72
Affectionately known as Mr. Ma, Ming Wei Ma was the Star Ballroom Dance Studio's manager.
Ma also taught dance and used to dance competitively. His love of dance seemed infectious, those who worked alongside him said.
"He was the life force of Star Ballroom. He did everything for Star," said Kristina Hayes, who worked with Ma.
“When people came, he was always welcoming. ‘You want a coffee? You want this, you want that?’ He was always taking care of people,” said Daniel Buhala, a co-owner of Dance Around the Clock studio in nearby Monrovia.
Ma was the man behind many of the joyous gatherings and celebrations at Star Ballroom. With its large dance floor, it was the setting for parties and social events.
“He always showed a lot of respect to everybody,” said Eric Chen, a San Gabriel pastor. “He was very kind.”
Monterey Park Councilmember Yvonne Yiu said Ma was her longtime dance instructor.
“I want to say to teacher Ma, although I can’t follow you now eventually I would like to follow you to heaven and sing and dance with you again,” Yiu said.
Mymy Nhan, 65
Mymy Nhan was a weekend regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio. Her family says dancing is what she loved.
Nhan was leaving the ballroom Jan. 21 with her dance partner when a gunamn approached their car in the parking lot. The shooter fired rounds through the driver's side widow, killing a woman her family described as a "loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend." Her partner was not injured.
"It's still sinking in what happened to Mymy," the family said in the statement. "She spent so many years going to the dance studio in Monterey Park on weekends. It's what she loved to do. But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.
"We are starting the Lunar New Year broken. We never imagined her life would end so suddenly. Mymy was 65 years old. If you saw her, you knew her warm smile and kindness was contagious. She was a loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend. Mymy was our biggest cheerleader."
Diana Tom, 70
Diana Tom was a mother, wife and grandmother who had just retired and was looking forward to a trip next month.
Star Ballroom Dance Studio DJ Daniel Hsiu, who was working the night of the shooting, described her as a kind and caring person. She had plans for a trip to Asia.
"A very warm person," Hsiu said. "She had already booked a cruise for the end of February. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a chance to fulfill her dream."
In a statement accompanying an online fundraiser, family members said Tom always went out of her way to give to others.
Muoi Ung, 67
Family members described Muoi Ung as a loving wife, mother, sister, grandmother and friend in a statement posted with a GoFundMe fundraiser.
The Chinese-Vietnamese refugee found comfort in the Asian community of Monterey Park, family members said.
"She was sweet, kind, generous and displayed a passion to enjoy life, one that was heartlessly taken from her," the statement said. "She came to the states and reunited with her children just ten years ago. She was taken too soon from her children. Her death has bestowed upon us an unimaginable emptiness and depression that continues to leave us in a sorrowful state. Instead of celebrating with family and friends for the Lunar New Year, we are now given the hardship and responsibility to organize her memorial service.
She had been separated for decades from extended family members who came to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, NBC News reported. Just recently, her daughter reunited with Ung for the first time in years.
Chia Ling Yau, 76
Family members described Chia Ling Yau as a caring father, uncle, brother and friend.
“He was a happy, fun-loving individual who believed in living life to the fullest," the family said in a statement. "Taking every opportunity to cultivate his love of music, dance and travel, he often expressed gratitude for life and reflected upon the lessons he learned."
"As a father, he was generous with words of love and affirmation."
Family members said Yau treasured his friendships and always was willing to offer a helping hand.
The family's statement also extended condolences to families of all the victims.
Wen Yu, 64
Wen Tau Yu was retired from a management job and an agricultural company and studying to be a pharmacist, his son said.
"He was 64 years old and retired, but he was exploring his second career,” Szu Fa Yu told The New York Times. “I really admire him for that.”
His family gathered for Lunar New Year Jan. 21. When Yu's friends said he did not show up for a lunch the next day, the family reported him missing to police, the Associated Press reported.
Xiujuan Yu, 57
Xiujuan Yu, a mother of three, was celebrating Lunar New Year with friends Saturday -- just like others dancing in the Star ballroom.
“What was meant to be a night out celebrating the Lunar New Year with friends ended up being a devastating and life-changing event for my family,” Yu's niece wrote in an online fundraiser.
Yu immigrated to the United States from China in the early 2010s and dreamed of a new future for her family, her niece wrote. Yu had three children, two of whom are in college.
“Personally, this still doesn’t feel real. It happened all too quickly — we never even got a chance to properly say goodbye,” her niece wrote.
Lilan Li, 63
Lilan Li, 63, was among the victims killed at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, according to the Los Angeles coroner's office. NBC News has been unable to reach Li's family to learn more about her.
Note: Mass shootings are defined as events where at least four people are shot, either injured or killed, not including the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Source: Gun Violence Archive, 2023 mass shootings
About the Monterey Park Dance Hall Tragedy
The shooting happened following a night of Lunar New Year celebrations in the San Gabriel Valley community of Monterey Park. About 20 minutes after the gunfire at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, the gunman targeted a second dance hall in the nearby community of Alhambra, where he was disarmed, authorities said.
The victims were in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Two of the deceased victims were identified Monday morning by the Los Angeles County Coroner' Office.
A motive in the shooting remains unclear, Sheriff Robert Luna said Sunday.
Multiple law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News that while the exact motive remains elusive, evidence gathered so far suggests a personal motive rather than terrorism or a hate crime. The officials stressed the investigation remains in its early stages and that they're attempting to piece together a detailed timeline of events and more background on the gunman.
The 72-year-old man identified by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as the shooter was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday in a van in a Torrance strip mall parking lot, the sheriff's department said.
Monterey Park is a city of about 60,000 people on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. The shooting happened in the downtown area where tents and red lanterns decorated the streets for the Lunar New Year festivities. A large banner proclaimed "Happy Year of the Rabbit!"
The Star Ballroom Dance Studio's website said it was hosting an event Saturday night called "Star Night" from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. It was not immediately clear whether the shooter knew any of the victims.
The massacre was the nation’s fifth mass killing this month.