Monterey Park Hero to Sit in First Lady's Box for State of the Union

President Biden Delivers First Address To Joint Session Of Congress

Photo: Getty Images

MONTEREY PARK (CNS) - The man who wrestled a gun away from the Monterey Park mass shooter last month and likely prevented a second deadly shooting from occurring in nearby Alhambra will be among the guests in first lady Jill Biden's viewing box for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

Brandon Tsay and the other guests were invited by the White House because they personify issues or themes to be addressed by Biden in his speech or embody the Biden-Harris administration's policies, the White House said.

In a phone call two weeks ago, Biden thanked Tsay for "taking such incredible action."

"I wanted to call to see how you're doing and thank you for taking such incredible action in the face of danger," Biden told Tsay at the time. "I don't think you understand just how much you've done for so many people who are never even going to know you. But I want them to know more about you."

Tsay repeatedly thanked Biden for the phone call, saying, "For you to call, that's just to comforting to me."

Biden also told Tsay, "You have my respect" and "You are America, pal. You are who we are. America's never backed down. We've always stepped up, because of people like you."

On the night of Jan. 21, Tsay confronted and disarmed gunman Huu Can Tran at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in Alhambra, shortly after Tran shot 20 people -- 11 fatally -- at another dance studio in Monterey Park. Tsay's family runs the Lai Lai studio.

Monterey Park City Councilman Henry Lo, who was mayor when the shooting occurred, will also attend the president's speech, as a guest of Sen. Alex Padilla, while Juily Phun, a niece of one of the fatally wounded Monterey Park victims, will attend as a guest of Rep. Judy Chu, the legislators' offices confirmed.

Tsay, Lo and Phun -- the niece of 67-year-old shooting victim Muoi Dai Ung -- will also be special guests Tuesday morning at a State of the Union reception in Washington honoring Monterey Park, hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, CAPAC announced.

Chu, a former Monterey Park City Councilwoman and three-time mayor before she was elected to Congress, is chair of the caucus.

Tsay was originally invited to the State of the Union by Chu last month, but shortly thereafter reportedly was asked by the president himself to be his guest -- prompting Chu to joke to Tsay during a "medal of courage" ceremony in Alhambra, "I can't believe you turned me down for the president."

Lo, the former Monterey Park mayor and now a District 4 councilman, led the city in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, saying at one point, "Our priority is to make sure that those victims, their family members are given the resources they need to heal. ... Together, we can overcome this tragedy."

Said Padilla, "It's an honor to be joined by Councilman Henry Lo at this year's State of the Union address. Henry's leadership has been instrumental in honoring the lives of those we lost in Monterey Park and helping the community heal after such a devastating loss."

Padilla also called for Congress to pass "sensible, nationwide gun safety laws" -- a call that was echoed by Lo in a statement released by Padilla's office.

"It is urgent that we take federal action to ensure that no other community in America has to mourn lives lost to senseless gun violence," Lo said. "The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was an important step to protecting our communities, and I thank Senator Padilla for his continued advocacy at the federal level for common-sense gun safety reforms that will keep our communities safe."

Other guests in Jill Biden's box will include the singer Bono, selected for his work in the fight against HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty; RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, a 29- year old unarmed Black man who was beaten to death by multiple Memphis, Tennessee police officers during a traffic stop; Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; and Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen.

They are part of the latest group to be recognized as part of tradition started by President Ronald Reagan during his State of the Union addresses.

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