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Cities strengthen security ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations after Monterey Park massacre leaves Asian American community on edge


By Alaa Elassar, CNN

Major cities, including New York and Los Angeles, are stepping up security precautions ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations following a mass shooting Saturday night in Monterey Park, California.

At least 10 people are dead and another 10 hospitalized after a gunman, who is still on the run, opened fire at a dance studio in a predominantly Asian community. The shooting happened near the area of Monterey Park’s Lunar New Year festival.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will strengthen security at other Lunar New Year events in the city while they continue to investigate a possible link between Saturday’s mass shooting scene and another incident a few miles away.

It is still too soon to rule out a hate crime as the possible motive, the sheriff’s department said. While authorities have not released any details about a potential motive for the killing, cities across the country are still taking extra security precautions.

Sheriff Robert Luna said his department has told other agencies to “make sure that security is a top priority at any event, and that’s not to indicate that we think there’s a threat there — we’re just taking every precaution that we can.”

“I encourage people to go out and enjoy the events,” Luna said. “As a matter of fact, I will be attending another Chinese New Year’s event later on in a couple of hours.”

The New York City Police Department told CNN it also has plans to have “an adequate security presence at Lunar New Year events” following the mass shooting.

“While there are no identified threats to New York City stemming from this incident, out of an abundance of caution, we have shifted our counterterrorism and patrol resources and will have an adequate security presence at Lunar New Year events and throughout the city,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

In Philadelphia, where a number of Lunar New Year events are planned, including a parade, the police department said in a tweet they are “increasing patrols in affected communities” after the California shooting.

“The Philadelphia Police Department is closely monitoring the tragic events in Monterey Park, California,” the tweet read. “While there does not appear to be a nexus to the Philadelphia area at this time, (Philadelphia Police) is increasing patrols in affected communities.”

Police in Washington, DC, are also “closely monitoring” Lunar New Year events in the nation’s capital and plan to increase patrols around those events in the wake of the mass shooting, Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Alaina Gertz said in a statement.

The massacre in Monterey Park marks at least the 33rd mass shooting in the US so far this month, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Both the non-profit and CNN define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.

‘After a day of celebration, we are waking up to a nightmare’

On January 22, millions of Americans with roots in China, Vietnam, South Korea and other Asian countries ring in the Lunar New Year. Family celebrations at home are accompanied by Lunar New Year flower markets, parades, banquet dinners and firework displays.

“After a day of celebration, we are waking up to a nightmare,” nonpartisan coalition Stop AAPI Hate said in a news release. “This is devastating beyond words. We cannot imagine the pain that so many families are experiencing today.”

That pain is only intensified by the toll of the last two years, which have seen a sharp increase in hate crimes against Asians in the United States, the coalition said.

“Our community has faced so much tragedy and trauma over the last several years,” Stop AAPI Hate said in the release. “This tremendous act of violence, on one of the most important days of the year for many Asian Americans, at a place where Asian American families come to gather and celebrate, is sending shockwaves through our community.”

Reported hate crimes against Asians in 16 of the nation’s largest cities and counties rose 164% in 2021, according to a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

“To have this tragedy occur on Lunar New Year weekend, makes this especially painful,” the mayor of nearby Alhambra, California, Sasha Renée Pérez, tweeted. “Monterey Park is home to one of the largest #AAPI communities in the country. This is a time when residents should be celebrating with family, friends and loved ones – not fearing gun violence.”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, Gloria Pazmino, and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.

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