The man credited with saving an unknown number lives by wrestling a gun away from a mass murderer at an Alhambra dance studio received a phone call Thursday from President Joe Biden, who thanked him for “taking such incredible action.”
Biden posted a video and audio of the call with Brandon Tsay on his Twitter account.
“I wanted to call to see how you’re doing and thank you for taking such incredible action in the face of danger. I don’t think you understand just how much you’ve done for so many people who are never even going to know you,” Biden told the 26-year-old Tsay. “But I want them to know more about you.”
Tsay repeatedly thanked Biden for the phone call, saying, “For you to call, that’s just to comforting to me.”
He later added, “I appreciate your words of kindness. Thank you, President Biden.”
Biden told Tsay, “You have my respect.”
“You are America, pal. You are who we are,” Biden said. “… America’s never backed down. We’ve always stepped up, because of people like you.”
Tsay will be honored during Sunday’s Lunar New Year Festival in Alhambra. According to the city, Tsay will receive a “medal of courage” from the Alhambra Police Department and other honors during a ceremony planned for 12:30 p.m. Sunday on the festival’s main stage.
Tsay confronted 72-year-old gunman Huu Can Tran when Tran walked into the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra late Saturday night. Unbeknownst to Tsay at the time, Tran had just shot 20 people — 11 fatally — at a dance studio in Monterey Park less than 20 minutes earlier.
“My first thought was I was going to die here, this is it,” Tsay told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
Tsay, whose family runs the Lai Lai studio, said the gunman was “looking around the room” as if he was “looking for targets.”
“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.”
He has been hailed by a hero by local authorities and state officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, with whom Tsay met earlier this week.
The Alhambra Lunar New Year Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Main Street, featuring music, dance performances, cultural performances and other activities
The event will also include a remembrance ceremony to honor the victims of the Monterey Park shooting, which occurred following that city’s Lunar New Year Festival. Organizers noted that in light of the shooting, Sunday’s festival will be “slightly more subdued” than usual.
“Creating community is an important goal under any circumstance,” John Bwarie, CEO of the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “Now we find that the ties between us matter most, because we can face this tragedy together and rise above it. We invite everyone in Southern California to celebrate the new year with us in Alhambra and show our strength and faith in the future.”
Alhambra city officials issued a statement earlier this week saying the festival would go forward despite the Monterey Park tragedy, and public safety will be a main focus.
“The safety of our community is paramount,” according to the city and Chamber of Commerce. “As such, additional resources from the Alhambra Police Department will be present. We look forward to our celebration and our community coming together.”