The man who has been hailed as a hero for disarming the Monterey Park, California, shooter at a second dance hall late Saturday says that in the moments before he took action, he was afraid for his own life.
"There was a moment I actually froze up, because I was, I had the belief that I was gonna die, like my life was ending here, at that very moment," Brandon Tsay, 26, told NBC News' Lester Holt in an interview that aired Monday night. "But something amazing happened, a miracle actually. He started to try to prep his weapon so he could shoot everybody, but then it dawned on me that this was the moment to disarm him, I could do something here that could protect everybody and potentially save myself."
Tsay said that when the suspect arrived at the second dance hall not long after killing 11 people and injured at least 10 more, he looked intent on more violence.
"When he came in, he said nothing," he said. "His face was very stoic. His expressions were mostly in his eyes — looking around trying to find people, trying to scout the area for other people."
Tsay said earlier in an interview Monday with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that most customers had already left by the time the shooter arrived at Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio, about 2 miles north of Monterey Park's Star Ballroom Dance Studio, where the first deadly attack had taken place about 20 minutes earlier, authorities have said.
Tsay’s grandmother is co-owner of Lai Lai, and he helps out at the front desk and is “the face of the club when people come in,” he told Holt. Around 10:30 p.m., the gunman walked in.
“When I first saw him, my thoughts were — oh, my God, that’s a gun,” Tsay said. “What followed was the severity of what I saw. There’s a weapon, and potentially people could get killed.”
The dance hall was hosting a party with dancing for Lunar New Year. Tsay had not heard about the shooting in Monterey Park.
After he saw the man apparently preparing the weapon, Tsay said, he crept out of sight while the man's attention was on the gun.
“Maybe two steps, three steps, and then I was in a position where I could immediately rush him. Straight, beeline towards his gun,” Tsay said. “So I lunged at him and grabbed it with both my hands, holding on for dear life.”
There was a struggle, but when the gunman took one hand off his weapon to hit Tsay, Tsay wrestled the gun away from him. Tsay aimed at him and shouted: “Go away, I’ll shoot! Get out of here! Go!”
“He was contemplating for a moment, like he wanted to take the gun away. He wanted to fight for it. He wanted to stake his life on it,” Tsay said. “This is when I realized I would have to shoot him if he tried it."
Tsay said he did not recognize the shooter, identified by authorities as Huu Can Tran, 72.
Tran fatally shot himself in a cargo van in Torrance, a city nearly 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park, as law enforcement officers closed in Sunday, officials have said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said Monday that the weapon taken from Tran at the Lai Lai was a 9 mm semi-automatic MAC-10, which he called an assault weapon.
Luna thanked Tsay at a news conference Monday for his “heroic action, which saved countless lives.”
"What a brave man he is," Luna said.
After the gunman left Lai Lai and ran into an alleyway, Tsay called police. Arriving officers told Tsay about the Monterey Park shooting.
The gunman didn't say anything during the incident, Tsay said.
"His facial expressions, eyes did most of the talking," Tsay said. "They told me he wanted to do harm."
Tsay estimated the entire encounter lasted a minute but said it felt far longer. He sustained bruises to his nose and on the back of his head, and his back was aching afterward.
He said he was thankful that it was near closing time and that many people had left when the gunman entered.
"It would have been hard to think if people were leaving and this guy was just outside in the parking lot," Tsay said.
Tsay's grandmother started the club, he said, and three generations of the family have been associated with it. Tsay described it as a fun place where people gather to dance, exercise and socialize.
"This was supposed to be a day of celebration and for people to have fun,” Tsay said. "But having someone come and ruin the lives and the families of this Chinese community of dancers — it’s just so horrific.”