A 26-year-old computer coder enjoying a Lunar New Year celebration faced off with a gunman who’d just killed 10 people and wounded 10 others at another celebration, wrestling the man’s semi-automatic handgun from him even though he was certain he was going to die.
Brandon Tsay, who helps his family run the Lai Lai Ballroom in Alhambra, told ABC’s Good Morning America that the celebration was winding down Saturday night, and he was watching the crowd from the lobby when he heard the door close behind him, followed by the click of metal-on-metal.
“That’s when I turned around and saw that there was an Asian man holding a gun. My first thought was I was going to die here, this is it,” Tsay said.
Tsay didn’t know at that point that just a few minutes earlier, the gunman — identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran — had opened fire at the Star Dance Studio just a few miles away in Monterey Park. He know the man before him had a gun and was “looking around the room,” “looking for targets — people to harm.”
“He started prepping the weapon and something came over me,” Tsay said. “I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him. I needed to take this weapon, disarm him or else everybody would have died.”
“When I got the courage,” he continued, I lunged at him with both my hands, grabbed the weapon and we had a struggle. We struggled into the lobby, trying to get this gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face, bashing the back of my head.”
Tsay ended up with the weapon and pointed it at the now disarmed man, shouting at him to leave or he’d shoot.
“I thought he would run away, but he was just standing there contemplating whether to fight or to run,” Tsay said. “I really thought I would have to shoot him if he came at me. This is when he turned around and walked out the door, jogged back to his van. I immediately called police with the gun still in my hand.”
Nearly 12 hours later, police in Torrance located the van and surrounded it. As officer approached, they heard a single gunshot and retreated, calling in tactical help. When a SWAT team breached the van, they found Huu Can Tran dead inside from a single gunshot wound.
Police said afterward that two people disarmed the gunman at the Lai Lai Ballroom, but only Tsay is seen doing battle with him in the security footage.
Tsay said he shook all night after the incident, unable to believe what had happened, and what could have happened. The morning after, he found his body covered in bruises from the fight with the gunman.
“A lot of people have been telling me how much courage I had to confront a situation like this,” he said. “But you know what courage is? Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to have adversity to fear when fearful events happen such as this.”
“In crises like this, the people need courage, especially the victims, their friends, their families,” he added. “My heart goes out to everybody involved, especially the people in Star Dance Studio and Monterey Park. I hope they can find the courage and the strength to persevere.”
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[Featured image: Lai Lai Ballroom via ABC’s “Good Morning America”]