Their motives for the mass murder appeared to differ — workplace hostility, law enforcement officials said, or personal grudges or a political conflict in a homeland across the ocean.
But it was all Asian men of retirement age who have been accused of spray-painting to express their bitterness over the past year other Asians with bullets, right where Asian immigrants go to escape isolation.
Even as they mourn the victims, Asian Americans across the country are grappling with a new reality. Someone who looks like his grandfather, who went down a similar immigration route, is suspected of committing a uniquely American act — he opened fire on a group of innocent people at a Taiwanese church last May, at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park on Saturday and in the coastal farming community of Half Moon Bay on Monday.
For a community already hit by a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic — sometimes involving the elderly — the violence between Asians seems too much to bear, particularly in the two recent Lunar New Year shootings .
Only three men are accused of committing these horrific acts, but the isolation and mental health issues that may have spiraled them is a common thread for some elderly Asian immigrants who may have witnessed the war in their homeland and who have experienced the confusion of settling in a foreign country.
Among friends and family on social media, sons and daughters are wondering if they’ve done enough for older people who have been through so much but often don’t have the vocabulary to openly address issues — even in their native language.
“You do not speak English. Their children do not speak their mother tongue. The older generation cannot connect with the younger generation. That’s a picture of the typical Asian-American working-class family, especially the East Asian family,” said Sonny Le of Oakland, who has worked as a medical interpreter for Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese seniors for more than 20 years. “Stoic. Bottling. It’s a way to cover up our shortcomings, our inability to articulate what we’re thinking or feeling.”
Some groups have organized virtual mourning groups over the recent massacres so people can be together, if only online.
“Know that you are not alone in your pain, your fears, your anger, your urges to break up, your need to be with your people,” read an online message Tuesday from 18 Million Rising , an Asian-American advocacy group.
Peggy Huang’s parents visit the Taiwan Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, where a gunman fired into a lunch banquet in May, injuring five elderly parishioners and killing a 52-year-old doctor.
David Wenwei Chou, 68, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder with hate crimes in the case, grew up in Taiwan but has recent roots in China.
He left notes in his car showing that he doesn’t believe Taiwan should be independent from China, authorities said, believing he was “specifically targeting the Taiwanese community.”
Huang’s parents weren’t at church that day, but Huang, the former mayor of Yorba Linda, served as an unofficial spokesperson for victims and survivors.
When Huang heard about the Monterey Park shooting that killed 11 and injured nine, she feared another possible hate crime as she exchanged messages with family and friends.
Law enforcement sources soon found the gunman, identified by authorities as Huu Can Tran, 72, may have been motivated by a personal dispute.
With another elderly Asian man as a suspect, Huang’s thoughts turned to the difficulty of getting treatment for immigrants who may not view their problems as mental health problems.
When elders lose their jobs or retire, it’s a difficult transition, especially for men who’ve had “tough lives,” said Huang, 52.
“They’ve been working their whole lives and they really don’t know what to do with their lives,” she said.
Chou, the accused Taiwanese church killer, lived a life of isolation and resentment in Las Vegas.
His terminally ill wife had left him; he was unable to pay his rent, which was double his monthly income; and he struggled to find work as a 68-year-old casino security guard.
Tran also appeared to be struggling and twice reported to Hemet police that family members had tried to poison him.
Law enforcement sources are investigating whether Tran, who they believe attended both the Monterey Park dance studio and a studio at the Alhambra where he was disarmed by an employee, was driven by jealousy or some other grudge.
Tran, who was born in Vietnam, shot himself in a Torrance parking lot the day after the shooting and died at the scene.
Chunli Zhao, 66, who is suspected of killing seven people and wounding one in Half Moon Bay on Monday, was living and working at a mushroom farm.
The victims may have been Zhao’s employees, said San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus, who described the shooting as a “workplace violence incident.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a former colleague accused Zhao of attempting to choke him and filed a restraining order against him in 2013.
Paul Hoang, a licensed clinical social worker, said he was “deeply saddened” by the news that all three suspects in the shooting were elderly Asian-American men.
Hoang, founder and CEO of the Moving Forward Psychological Institute in Fountain Valley, with clients across the state who are Vietnamese or Chinese, said male Asian immigrants are burdened with expectations of success but are not encouraged to share their feelings.
“If they don’t succeed or are unable to provide the best for their families, it can be devastating,” Hoang said.
In his practice and as a volunteer providing home-cooked meals to the elderly, Hoang has experienced the isolation many seniors are experiencing during the pandemic, which is made worse for immigrants with language challenges.
“They will not go to shelters or other facilities for help because there may not be anyone there who speaks their language or the food they are used to,” Hoang said. “Many of the services currently available are not culturally sensitive to our communities.”
Older immigrants tend to “keep it to themselves” and “say less” and aren’t as open to discussions about mental health as younger Asian Americans are, said Jason Huang, 49, a Taiwanese-American who lives in Monterey Park, where Saturday night gunfire ripped through the Lunar New Year celebrations.
For these reasons, gathering places such as the Monterey Park dance studio where the shooting took place or parks where immigrants practice tai chi and other exercises are particularly important, Huang said.
“The dance hall is a place that people knew they could go to,” he said. “The older generation that goes to the park, they all know they have to go there.”
The lack of community spaces for seniors is a problem in Koreatown, said Steve Kang, director of foreign affairs for the Koreatown Youth and Community Center. A McDonald’s on Western Avenue has become something of a community center.
“This McDonald’s, God forbid, if it goes away, it will have a detrimental impact on our elderly population,” Kang said. “Many of our low-income seniors meet at this McDonald’s because it’s cheap, they can afford the drinks and meals, and it’s relatively safe, warm, and welcoming.”
But even as they grieve and struggle to understand the shootings, people should avoid making blanket generalizations about older Asian men, said Glenn Masuda, senior clinical director of the Asian Pacific Family Center in Rosemead, which is part of a network of clinics is that provide psychiatric services in California.
“The question I’m already getting from Asians and non-Asians is, what the heck is going on with these Asian older men shooting at people?” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. And until we get more data, it’s going to be hard to make sense of.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-01-25/three-mass-shootings-by-older-asian-men-asian-americans-grieve-and-wonder-why Asian Americans grieve and wonder why other Asians have been targeted by