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Brandon Tsay & Henry Lo

Episode 119

Monterey Park Hero

Brandon Tsay demonstrated remarkable courage on January 21, 2023, when he disarmed the Monterey Park, California mass shooter during Lunar New Year celebrations.

Brandon’s heroism has since been profiled with NBC News, Good Morning America, The New York Times, among others, and Brandon has been honored by US Representative Judy Chu, California Governor Gavin Newsom, the US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, the US Vice President Kamala Harris, and by the 118th US Congress, and at President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address.

Brandon was awarded a medal of courage from the Alhambra Police Department and now runs the Brandon Tsay Hero Fund in partnership with the Asian Pacific Community Fund.

Henry Lo’s history of public service spans over 20 years. In March of 2020, he was elected to the Monterey Park City Council, District 4, and made history as the City of Monterey Park’s first openly gay Councilmember.

Previously, Henry served from 2003 to 2020 on the Garvey Elementary School District Board of Education. As a Board member, he co-founded the Garvey Education Foundation, which has raised community support for the schools in the district since its founding in 2007.

As a proponent of creating collaborative relationships between public agencies, Henry’s leadership helped to create an academic partnership between the Garvey Elementary School District and East Los Angeles College. Between 2016 and 2020, Henry was an appointed member of the City of Monterey Park Economic Development Advisory Commission in which he and his fellow commissioners provided input on how to improve the city’s economic climate.

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Brandon Tsay & Henry Lo Quotes

  • “During the incident that happened on Lunar New Year’s this year, I felt that she was protecting me in a sense. There’s this sense that it couldn’t have been all me. I’ve mostly attributed it to somebody who was protecting me, and it just gave me this kind of warmth thinking about it. I think it could have been my mom that was helping me through this time.”
  • “Most of all, I think, now that I’m looking back on it, I was sort of a kid. So I was very curious about the outside world. So the studio really made me feel stagnant in a sense. But at the same time, you know, I really felt that we were sort of a family there.”
  • “I got to learn a lot, but I feel like my personality tells me that iIt was sort of a time where I think that I would have been able to make a lot of friends if I didn’t go to after-school every single day. But I think, you know, it’s a very worthwhile investment because I think it really did prepare me for going into real world.”
  • “So I was preparing myself to go to community college because my mom was diagnosed with cancer at the time. I felt that I needed to help my mother out because there was really nobody that was there for her in the sense of a person who could, you know, really support her. So I decided I needed to help her out.”
  • “What it shows is that gun violence happens everywhere. And my concern was, you know, once the glare of the, TV cameras go away and the media, outlets leave, will we be left alone to pick up the pieces and to plot a path forward?”
  • Brandon Tsay is the man who disarmed the mass shooter in Monterey Park, California during the Lunar New Years celebration in January 2023
  • Brandon’s family moved from Taiwan to the San Gabriel Valley
  • Brandon was born and raised in the SGV
  • Brandon watched after his mother when she was diagnosed with cancer and traveled to Japan for an experimental stem cell research project

What is Brandon Tsay’s connection to the san gabriel valley?

Brandon Tsay was born and raised in San Gabriel Valley.

He was actually born in the San Gabriel hospital. When his parents came over, they lived in a small apartment near a supermarket. His mother was initially supporting the family until his father found inspiration to start his law practice, and then they moved to a house in Palm Vista.

Where is Brandon’s family originally from?

Brandon’s grandparents and his parents are originally from Taiwan.

A funny story is that when they came to the United States, his grandparents did not speak English well at all, so when they were asked to spell their last name, the officer incorrectly spelled it Tsay instead of Tsai, the way it originally was spelled. 

What was life like for Brandon Tsay after they initially moved?

Brandon met a lot of kids in his local neighborhood and for the most part, he lived a normal, average life. He was able to develop a deep sense of inclusion in the neighborhood. He also developed a strong community at his church.

He grew up Christian and his mother often spent time doing religious events.

Where does Brandon Tsay currently live?

At the moment, Brandon resides in San Reno, but the majority of his life was spent in the SGV. 

What did Brandon’s grandparents do when they arrived in the San Gabriel Valley?

They started a dance studio in the early 90s. His grandmother had a passion for dance, especially Taiwanese dance. She had such a large impact in the dance community so she figured, why not just open a dance studio?

Growing up, Brandon spent a lot of time at the studio, playing around and doing homework, among other things.

Does Brandon Tsay have siblings?

Brandon has an older sister named Brenda. She is two years older than Brandon.

Where did Brandon go to high school?

Brandon went through the San Marino education system in the SGV.

This included Valentine Elementary, Hunting Middle School, and San Marino High School. Brandon felt he always got to see new faces due to the influx of new students at the school, which was exciting to him. He tended to prioritize fun and socializing over grades, which disappointed his mother during middle school. 

Brandon’s mother encouraged him to go to a lot of after-school events, which initially bothered Brandon because he would rather be spending time with his friends. But in the end, he understands it was a major investment in himself and prepared him for the real world.

How was Brandon punished?

His mother had a bamboo stick that she would use for punishments. He acknowledges that it was never out of anger. He would see her face and she was never truly angry. It was about making sure he did not keep doing things that he shouldn’t.

Brandon does not regret this because he fears he would have become a very rebellious kid otherwise, and does not know how that would have impacted his life.

How did Brandon’s parents react to him graduating high school?

Brandon’s parents were thrilled. They were both so happy. His sister was studying in Seattle at the time, and Brandon was preparing to go to community college. Around this time, Brandon’s mother was diagnosed with cancer.

He realized there was no one really around to help her or support her, so he shelved the idea of community college and ended up going with her overseas to Japan for an experimental stem cell research project. He felt he needed to be there to support her mentally and physically, so he is glad that he went.

How did the Japanese project go?

At first, she seemed to be getting better. She had more energy and color seemed to be returning to her face. Unfortunately, there was one week that she just seemed to hit a wall, lost energy, and had trouble breathing.

She went to the hospital and was discovered to be in critical condition. His mother relayed to Brandon how she did not want to pass away in a hospital. As a spiritual person, she wanted to pass away somewhere she was very comfortable in.

She ended up passing away in the hospital, which Brandon is very remorseful about. 

How do Brandon Tsay and Henry Lo believe the January lunar new year celebration mass shooter has impacted the community?

In Henry’s mind, he believes the incident has shed light on the importance of family, a community, and how fragile that can really be. It shows that gun violence happens everywhere, unfortunately. His concern was that once the glare of the media’s cameras left, the community would be left to pick up the pieces.

Thankfully, the media has continued their interest in the well-being of Monterey Park.

Did they suspect that gun violence like this could occur in Monterey Park?

Henry Lo still believes the community is very safe, despite the recent tragedy. It just shows that the challenge of gun violence knows no boundaries. 

What would Henry want to be the effect of this tragic event on the community?

Henry would like the effect of the tragic mass shooting to be resilience and strength in the community. To know that families can confidently and safely call Monterey Park home.

How would Brandon like this event to be remembered?

Brandon would like the Monterey Park mass shooting to be a transformative process. Initially, everyone suffered a certain level of paranoia. But, being able to gain courage, bravery, and confidence would be critical. He wants the community to become safe and know that Monterey Park isn’t just one type of cultural background or ethnic group.

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Brandon Tsay & Henry Lo

Arcadia Mall

Lacey Park, San Marino

Valley Boulevard