Emil Guillermo: A gunman is one of us. Should we be surprised?

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This was not the Lunar New Year news we expected. The rabbit year portends peace and hope, not fear and dread.

And then came the mass shooting that left ten dead in Monterey Park.

“There is a male suspect that fled the scene, and remains outstanding,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert G. Luna at the very first press conference Sunday morning at the Monterey Park City Hall.

And then Luna said something no one expected.

“Our very preliminary description has been described as a male Asian, and that’s from the scene here in Monterey Park.”

A “male Asian.”

The person being sought in connection to the murders of ten people, and the wounding of at least ten others at that dance studio in Monterey Park. is of Asian descent.

Monterey Park is a city that’s 65 percent AAPI; where 42 percent speak Chinese; where the city council looks like the community it serves. In this unique enclave in America, the shooter is one of us.

You were expecting a white supremacist like Buford Furrow?

You may recall it was Aug. 10, 1999 when Furrow, armed with an Uzi machine gun, opened fire with on a Jewish community center in Granada hills. His intent was on killing Jews. He fired 70 bullets and wounded five. They all survived.

The one person who died came after Furrow left the scene and encountered a USPS mail carrier, an Asian American Filipino named Joseph Ileto. He was delivering the mail when Furrow shot and killed him.

Furrow then took an $800 dollar cab ride from LA to Las Vegas to escape, according to newspaper accounts. There, he walked into an FBI office and said, “You’re looking for me, I killed the kids in Los Angeles." Furrow also stated that he wanted his shooting to be “a wakeup call to America to kill Jews.”

The only one he killed was an Asian American Filipino. And now Furrow is in federal prison for the hate crimes committed that day.

That’s the type of perp I was expecting in connection to Monterey Park.

Pardon me for stereotyping racist mass shooters.

I just didn’t expect “male Asian.”

The all-points bulletin issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it all: pictures of a suspect described as a “Male/Asian/dark complexion,” 5’10,” 150 pounds, “wearing blk leather jacket, beanie and glasses.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn about America in 2023. It’s just not the way I normally imagine this country’s great diversity.

But mass shootings have become standard events in modern American culture.

Where guns proliferate, people easily turn to guns for answers.

It’s the wrong place to look, but it has become the knee-jerk solution.

And we AAPIs are part of the great society, where guns are a thing.

In the Wild West there were street showdowns when two people faced off at high noon on the main drag for a quick draw duel. Now it’s gone from quick draw to mass murder, a long gun the shooter’s expression of what? Rage? Revenge?

It’s cowardly, despicable, and horrifying.

Each time it happens, we seem helpless to come up with an adequate response. We’re hampered by gun manufacturers’ skillful political manipulation of the Second Amendment.

For now, out of extreme caution, the public celebrations for the rest of the weekend around Monterey Park have been cancelled.

That’s no reason to spoil celebrations in other parts of the country. I’m still wearing red, eating my mochi donuts, and rooting for peace and hope.

Certainly, we need more of that now, as our thoughts turn to survivors and victims of the Monterey Park tragedy, and why it happened at all.

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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