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Monterey Park victims' names are released as the gunman's motives are investigated

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We now know the identities of all 11 people killed in the mass shooting at a dance hall in Monterey Park, Calif. The youngest was 57 years old, the oldest 76. Their love of dancing brought them together at the Star Ballroom on Saturday night. And now the largely Chinese American community that lost them is starting to memorialize the victims, even as people grasp for answers about why they were killed. We're joined by NPR's Adrian Florido in Monterey Park. Hi there.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Well, the LA County Coroner's Office released the full list of the dead today. Tell us about them.

FLORIDO: Well, here are their names - My Nhan, Lilian Li, Xiujuan Yu, Muoi Ung, Hong Jian, Yu Kao, Chia Yau, Valentino Alvero, Wen Yu, Ming Ma and Diana Tom. They were six women, five men, who were, as you mentioned, all either in retirement age or getting close to it and who'd found a way to stay active and socialize by doing something they loved - dancing cha-cha, tango, waltzes, salsa. And that's what they were doing Saturday night to usher in the Lunar New Year.

SHAPIRO: Can you give us a couple of details about some of the victims?

FLORIDO: Well, there was Ming Ma. He was 72 years old, and he was the owner and manager of the Star Ballroom. Now, people who knew him said that he'd worked hard to make his ballroom a festive and welcoming place for its mostly senior-aged clientele. Xiujuan Yu had immigrated to the U.S. from China about a decade ago. And according to a GoFundMe posted by her family, she and her husband had been working a lot of odd jobs to put their two children through college. And the dance hall was her respite. My My Nhan's family described her as kind beyond words. And on Saturday, she had been dancing for the first time since her mother's death.

SHAPIRO: Am I correct that most but not all of the victims were Chinese or Taiwanese?

FLORIDO: That's right. Most were, but not all of them. I met a woman named Siu Fong. She hosts a free karaoke class for seniors at the Star Ballroom. And she said one of the victims, Valentino Alvero, was in one of her classes, and he was Filipino. And she saw his picture online last night.

SIU FONG: I said, oh, no, that's him. I mean, my heart just sank. You know, it's just unbelievable. It's just like, why?

FLORIDO: She told me about a time in the class when, because Alvero was Filipino, she handed him not a Chinese songbook to choose from, but an English one.

FONG: But he said, no, I want you to sing this song, "Xiao Feng." I said, what (laughter)? And he sang it, I mean, perfectly - the tune and the voice. He has a very strong voice. And his pronunciation of Mandarin is just perfect. He just surprised the whole class.

FLORIDO: In the last couple of days, Ari, families and the community have been raising money for funerals. There are also several large vigils planned for this evening and into this week.

SHAPIRO: And as we learn more about the victims, police continue to investigate a possible motive. Where does that stand?

FLORIDO: Well, officials have said very little still about the 72-year-old gunman who later killed himself. They have said that he was a dancer himself and had a relationship with the Star Ballroom. LA County Sheriff Robert Luna has acknowledged reporting suggesting that the gunman may have been settling a personal dispute. But he only said that investigators are looking into that, among other possible motives. So the investigation continues.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Adrian Florido reporting in Monterey Park, Calif. Thank you.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.