Niece of youngest Monterey Park shooting victim says gun violence derailed aunt’s dream

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MONTEREY PARK, California (KABC) — After all 11 people who died in the Monterey Park mass shooting were identified Tuesday, stories began to emerge about how they affected their communities, leaving many heartbroken and struggling to understand such a tragedy.

That is what Kathleen Fong experiences. She is the niece of the youngest victim of the massacre, 57-year-old Xiujuan Yu.

Speaking to TSTIME News, she said she and her family are struggling with the “devastating and life-changing event.”

She created a GoFundMe for her aunt and shared a heartbreaking story about an American dream derailed by gun violence.

Fong said her aunt moved to the US from China in early 2010.

“My aunt was shaping that future with her husband and children, and having that journey suddenly interrupted is heartbreaking,” read the GoFundMe, which was created by Fong. “She’ll never be able to see what she’s been dreaming about all these years.”

Yu was the mother of three children, two of whom attend California State Universities where they are pursuing careers in sports medicine and kinesiology.

“My aunt and uncle worked tirelessly to support their daughters’ livelihood and education, doing odd jobs and taking on labor-intensive occupations to make ends meet,” Fong said.

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She went on to say: “Personally, this still doesn’t feel real. It all happened too quickly – we haven’t even had a chance to say a proper goodbye. Despite these hardships, my family is doing everything they can to heal and make sure that my aunt gets a proper burial.”

The victims ranged in age from 57 to 76 years. They were six women and five men.

Here are their names, as identified by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office:

My My Nhan, 65

Lillian Li, 63

Xiujuan Yu, 57

Muoi Dai Ung, 67

Hongying Jian, 62

Yulun Kao, 72

Chia Ling Yau, 76

Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68

Wen Tau Yu, 64

Ming Wei Ma, 72

Diana Male Ling Tom, 70

Witnesses say about 50 people were in the dance studio when the gunman opened fire on Saturday night. In addition to the 11 dead, about nine people were injured in the shooting.

Friends say that Ming Wei Ma, 72, was a dance instructor, known for his patience and understanding. They say he gave his life to save others.

“Mr. Ma, who is well loved and respected in the dance community, has been doing that for over 20 years – he tried to stop the shooter and he died,” said friend Eric Chen.

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Valentino Alvero’s family released a statement calling the 68-year-old a loving father, devoted son and lover of ballroom dancing.

“Overnight we became reluctant members of a community grieving the loss of our loved ones to gun violence,” the statement read. “We are left frustrated, stuck in this vicious circle.”

The statement continued: “Most importantly, Valentino is more than just a headline or a news story.”

WATCH: Monterey Park in anguish as victims’ stories emerge: ‘It feels like it happened to your family’

“We wish [we] could let him [know] that we will all miss him for the rest of our days on this earth. We hope he danced to his heart’s content until the end and hope he’s dancing in heaven now.”

Yu Lun Kao was from South El Monte. His dance partner, who only wanted to be identified as Shally, said he saved her life by using his own body to protect her from the gunman. Neighbors told Eyewitness News that Kao lived in the same apartment for more than 20 years.

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“It’s just hard to process right now because obviously it’s someone we know and have known for a long time,” said neighbor Ruth Ortega. She and her father found out about Kao’s death on Tuesday. They said he was always a nice person with a green thumb – he loved his plants and always got along with all the neighbours.

“He’s always kind of kept to himself, you know? Very nice and just always helpful to everyone,” Ortega said.

Tom died in a hospital a day after the shooting.

Her family released a statement describing her as “a hard-working mother, wife and grandmother who loved to dance”. The statement went on to say, “For those who knew her, she was someone who always went out of her way to give to others.”

All families and victims affected by the shooting are urged to go to the Langley Senior Center at 400 W. Emerson Avenue, where a crisis response team is present.

In addition, GoFundMe has launched a verified fundraiser hub to help and is constantly updated with verified accounts.

You can donate through the Monterey Park Shooting: How To Help hub.

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