The owner of the studio and a beloved dance instructor who was the “heart” of Star Ballroom, Ma was identified by colleagues and friends as one of the victims on Sunday night.
Ma was a staple of the dance community and “beloved and respected” by those who were a part of it, said Eric Chen, a friend of Ma’s who spoke to ABC7.
Chen said he was killed while trying to stop the shooter.
Lauren Woods, another instructor at the studio, wrote in a Facebook post that she talked to Ma for the last time on Saturday; he helped her find a parking space in the crowded streets amid the new year celebrations.
Woods said she and Ma had a special way of communicating.
“His English was not great, but he’d always say, ‘My teacher! My teacher!’ Always kiss my cheeks and say ‘Love You! Love you!’ Full of hugs and physically pick me up sometimes. It was always so loving when he would do this,” she wrote.
Ma was “the heart of Star Ballroom,” Woods added. He connected with many people who came through the dance studio.
“To the ones who were there and so many other dancers in our community, I’m so glad you got to meet and get to know Ma and his beautiful soul, at least once, before passing,” she wrote.
Yushin told BuzzFeed News that Ma always made sure people were comfortable at his studio.
“He always tried to communicate with everybody, he always would be nice,” Yushin, who started teaching at Star Ballroom seven or eight months ago, said. “Whenever you need some help, whatever you need … whatever he has at the time, he shared. He was always helping everybody.”
In a 2016 interview with Pasadena Star-News about Chinese immigrants taking up Latin dance at the studio, Ma said he wanted to offer a place for Asians in Monterey Park to be active.
“Having a place where people from all over the world can come together and communicate through dance is how I can help,” Ma said.
My Nhan, 65
Nhan, whose family called her Mymy, was a longtime patron of Star Ballroom who often went dancing on the weekends.
“It’s what she loved to do,” her family said in a statement. “But unfairly, Saturday was her last dance.”
Nhan was the first person who was shot and killed at the studio that night, according to Tiffany Liou, a reporter whose husband was Nhan’s nephew.
Nhan was shot in her car outside Star Ballroom, Fox 11 journalist Gigi Graciette reported.