Los Angeles In this city of 60,000 people, red lanterns and banners in Chinese characters celebrating the Lunar New Year still hang in the streets.
But around the ballroom where the shooting took place, yellow police tape and heavily armed police replaced any signs of carnival.
“It doesn’t happen here,” said Wynn Liaw, a neighbor who went to the famous seniors’ hangout after hearing the news.
Liaw, a 57-year-old retired veterinarian, has lived for the past four decades in Monterey Park.
She still finds it hard to believe that a massacre took place here, behind the white and green eaves of the place where she goes to shop every day. “It’s a very safe neighborhood where I can walk alone at night and not have to worry about gun violence,” she told AFP as police helicopters circled overhead.
On Saturday night, a gunman entered the ballroom and killed five men and five women and wounded at least 10 others, authorities said.
The massacre – the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the Uvalde massacre in which 19 children and two teachers were killed at a Texas elementary school – caught Monterey Park by surprise.
A few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, Monterey Park is considered the city’s “New Chinatown”.
People here read newspapers in Mandarin, most of the commercial signs are in Chinese, and most of the people the AFP reporter approached do not speak English.
“This area is one of the safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County,” said John McKinney, local prosecutor for the Greater Southern California metropolitan area.
“Not much is happening here,” adds Ken Nim, a 38-year-old computer scientist who walks his dog.
Nim says that in the 20 years he lived here, the only crime he committed was stealing the catalytic converter in his car.
“What a sad thing, this country is going crazy,” said Nam
“We’ve seen mass shootings in various cities and in other states, but now it’s happening to us.”
David Kwan, a Malaysian-born security guard, was stunned by the shooting.
“I often experience violence, but in other parts of LA,” Kwan said. “This is the first time I’ve seen him in my community.”
Along the blocked streets, residents sought to understand the outbreak of violence. On their phones, they saw pictures of corpses lying on the ground in a room lit with multicolored lights.
At first, many feared this was a hate crime. But the suspect’s Asian origins, confirmed by the sheriff in the morning, cast doubt on this interpretation.
“I feel like this is a personal story,” said Jerry Liu, a 26-year-old truck driver, who said the nearly hundreds of white tents lined up at the Lunar New Year market.
The day before, thousands of people crowded into the main market, between the meat skewers and the fairground.
“There was a reason for him to target that ballroom. If not, he could have gone to the fair earlier in the day and killed more people,” Liu said.
In the face of police encirclement, Chester Chong suggested one possible motive: jealousy rising in a man who was not invited to the party his wife was having fun with.
“The problem is we have too many guns in this country,” said Chong, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.