Monterey Park shooting victim “Andy” Kao “always wore his dancing shoes” – Orange County Register

Andy Kao had just turned his partner over during a merry number at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio when a gunman walked in.

Shally, a friend who danced with him for 15 years, said that a two-second movement during a jive saved her life. But it cost Kao his.

Days after the Monterey Park mass shooting, people who knew 72-year-old Yu-Lun Kao — known simply as “Andy” — remembered the dance lover as a kind person.

“His nickname was ‘Mr. Nice,” said Shally’s husband Francois.

“He was very nice to everyone,” said Francois, who asked that his last name not be published. “Some people go into the studio but they don’t know how to dance. He was happy to help anyone who needed help.”

Originally from Taiwan, Kao moved to California about 20 years ago, his brother Alan Kao told the New York Times. Yu-Lun “Andy” Kao held dual U.S. and Taiwanese citizenship, according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. He worked as a contractor, public records show.

Kao was single and living alone in an apartment in South El Monte, where he was the only Asian tenant, surrounded by Latino neighbors, and where he routinely played the saxophone in the evenings, Vianeth Tellez, the apartment manager, said in an interview.

“He lived here for at least 15 years and was very friendly,” she said in Spanish. “Even those he couldn’t speak to (in Spanish) he always greeted.”

Margarita Catalan, another longtime tenant, was one of several who called him “una buena persona” — “a good person.”

“He was always very respectful and calm. And I loved hearing him on his saxophone,” said Catalan.

Playing an instrument may have been a strong interest, but “dancing was his passion,” according to his friend Francois.

Kao practiced in various dance studios. Last fall, a friend introduced him to Evie Dance Studio in Pomona, where the crowd is mostly Latino. Kao wanted to learn how to dance bachata and street salsa, which is less regulated than ballroom salsa.

“In the beginning he came once a week. Then he came three or four times a week,” said Evie Quinones, the studio’s owner.

“He was a very smart man. He learned very quickly,” she said. “He wanted to learn so that if he goes to a venue or club other than a dance studio, he could do the steps and lead the ladies properly,” Quinones said.

Kao tends to appear serious, she said, “because he was concentrating.”

“He always wore black: black trousers, black shirt, black jacket and his black cap. Once, after New Year’s Eve, he walked into the studio in a beautiful gray sweater and caught my attention because he always wore black. I told him, ‘You look good in that sweater.’ He gave me a small smile and walked on. He was a bit embarrassed.”

“He had a routine when he walked in: say hello, walk over to a chair, do his stretches, then switch to dancing shoes.

“He always wore his dancing shoes.”

While he was seen as more serious in the newer studio, Francois said he had a quick laugh and enjoyed good conversation with his close friends.

When Francois, not a dancer, and Shally, a dedicated dancer, married three years ago, she stated that she loves to dance and wanted to continue with her longtime dance partner Kao. “So I checked him out and he was a very nice guy,” said Francois, who also became friends with Kao.

Kao was a longtime regular at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, where he attended a Lunar New Year party on January 21. That night, a gunman shot 20 people and killed 11 before trying to strike a second time at the Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in the Alhambra, according to police. Brandon Tsay, 26, whose family owns the Alhambra studio, disarmed gunman Huu Can Tran during a fight.

The next morning, police found Tran parked in Torrance where they were involved in a standoff. He killed himself in the van he was driving, according to authorities.

Francois and Shally are still processing what happened on the night of January 21st.

Shally was dancing the jive with Kao when she first heard what she thought were firecrackers. Others in the drawing room – adorned with balloons and Chinese New Year trinkets – line danced.

On a Gofundme page he set up, Francois wrote that Kao “protected my wife by taking the bullet for her.” In an interview, he clarified that the couple believes it was Kao’s dance move just as the shooter in the room started shooting that saved her, but hit him instead.

Shally dragged her dance partner under a table so they could both take cover, her husband said. From there, “she saw him reload the gun,” he continued.

“That’s why she told Andy not to make any noise. “Don’t make a sound. Don’t make a sound, just lie down,'” Francois said, recounting what Shally Kao said as he tried to speak.

“She closed her eyes and told me she was praying.”

After the shooter left, Shally said she tried to “wake up my partner. ,Wake up. Wake up.’ He doesn’t answer at all,” she told ABC News. Then she saw blood on her hands. “Will I be shot? … I yelled too loud, ‘Am I going to be shot?’

Shally declined an interview, saying she has spoken to television crews and needs time away from the national media, which has been swamping Monterey Park and its neighboring communities.

“She needs time,” Francois said. “Me too. I need time to process it.”

“We both try not to cry in front of each other. When one cries, the other starts to cry. We’re both trying to stay strong for each other.”

Meanwhile, to give a helping hand to boyfriend Andy, the couple held the first of a three-day fundraiser at their Arcadia Donuts store in Arcadia on Thursday. Any proceeds added to the GoFundMe page they set up will go toward Kao’s funeral, Francois said.

The donut fundraiser was a huge success.

“The first customer said, ‘I want it all,'” Francois said Thursday morning of a customer who bought every donut in sight to take to the police and fire department.

A second batch of donuts in the background was quickly sold next.

Community members flocked Thursday morning to support the couple’s quest to do something nice – for the dancer, nicknamed “Mr. Kind.” Monterey Park shooting victim “Andy” Kao “always wore his dancing shoes” – Orange County Register

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