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Korean-American survivor recounts horrors of Texas mall shooting

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Left: Suni Tinsley, 72, recalls the horrific day with a shaky voice at the mourning altar in Dallas on May 9. She survived the mass shooting in Allen.
Right: Ethnic Koreans grieve over the scene at the Allen Premium Outlets on May 9. [YEOL JANG, The Korea Daily]
The local Korean-American community is reeling from a mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets near Dallas, Texas, that left eight people dead, including three members of a Korean-American family.

Mourners shared their grief by paying tribute at the mourning altar set up on May 9 by the Dallas Korean American Association for the victims of the shooting.

At the mourning altar, Korean-American survivor Suni Tinsley, 72, recalled the horrific day with a shaky voice, as if still in shock. She said she was on her way out of a store at the mall on May 6 when she spotted the gunman opening fire and crawled back inside and ducked for cover to avoid being shot.

Tinsley said, “I heard 50 to 60 shots outside, and people were running around in panic. After it was over, I had to walk through the bodies on the floor to follow the police instructions. I was so scared I couldn’t look at them.”

The Allen neighborhood where the incident occurred is located an hour’s drive north of Dallas.

“We set up a mourning altar in Dallas for ethnic Koreans who cannot visit the scene in Allen,” said Kyungchul Lee, senior vice president of the Dallas Korean American Association. “Consuls from the Houston Consulate General’s Dallas office, officials from the Dallas Police Department, and the Korean Embassy in the U.S. sent wreaths to share our grief.”

The Korean-Americans killed in the shooting were Kyu Song Cho (37) and Cindy Cho (35), and their 3-year-old son James. Their 6-year-old son William survived. The child was injured in the shoulder and was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery and is reportedly recovering.

The death of Cindy Cho is particularly tragic as she protected her son William with her body as a shield against a hail of bullets.

“When I turned the body of the dead woman on the ground, I saw a little boy,” Steven Spainhouer, a former police officer who helped with the rescue, told CNN, “and she was covered in blood from head to toe.”

“The grandparents from both sides are now here and taking care of the surviving child,” Lee said.

The New York Times highlighted the story of the dead Korean-American family on May 8 with the headline “Among the victims in Texas shooting: A wounded 6-year-old who lost his parents and brother.”

The Cho family lived in a north Dallas neighborhood 14 miles from the mall where the incident occurred.

“They were quiet and reserved and liked to stay home, but they were very friendly,” said Kristy Kim, a neighbor of the deceased family.

Trinity Wheatley, a daycare teacher for the deceased’s 3-year-old son, told local station WFAA: “He loved elephants, he was loving and smart and very cute. I’ve actually never met a 3-year-old that smart before,” she said, adding that the innocent child had done nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, the GoFundMe website for the Cho family, which was set up on May 8, had more than 31,000 contributors as of the afternoon of May 9, raising more than $1.58 million.

“We are truly grateful for the love and prayers from all over the country,” said the creator of the website, who set it up at the request of Cho’s brother, adding, “The surviving child is recovering well. The bereaved family members will use the funds to help him carry on the legacy of his parents.”

BY YEOL JANG [support@koreadaily.com]