Festivities were about to wrap up at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra late Saturday night when Brandon Tsay heard the front door open and saw a man with a gun walk inside — a man now identified by law enforcement as the person who had just fatally shot 11 people at a studio in nearby Monterey Park.
“My first thought was I was going to die here, this is it,” the 26-year-old Tsay told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
Tsay’s comments came before the death toll from Saturday’s shooting rose by one to 11, with officials at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center on Monday saying one of the shooting victims being treated there died from “extensive injuries.”
The Lai Lai studio was hosting a dance celebrating the Lunar New Year, and the night was nearing an end, so the sound of the front door opening caught his attention.
Tsay, whose family runs the studio, said the gunman was “looking around the room” as if he was “looking for targets,” he told ABC.
“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, 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 said he used his elbows to try to dislodge the gun from the man’s hands, and eventually after a life-or-death struggle, he managed to grab the weapon and point it at the man. He said he yelled at the man to “get the hell out of here,” threatening to 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 and 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.”
Tsay said he did not recognize the gunman. He was left shaken by the violent encounter.
“I was shaking all night. I couldn’t believe what happened,” he told ABC. “A lot of people have been telling me how much courage I had to confront a situation like this. 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. 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.”