It's Your Week: 'I needed to be out there'

The 11 people killed last Saturday night in a Monterey Park, California, dance studio marked the fifth mass shooting in the U.S. so far this year.

Less than  48 hours later, another mass shooting took place about 375 miles away when police said seven people who worked on mushroom farms near Half Moon Bay were shot and killed by a coworker.

As always, USA TODAY reporters and photographers were there to tell the stories of those whose lives were lost and how their communities will try to recover.

👋 Nicole Fallert here and welcome to Your Week, our newsletter exclusively for USA TODAY subscribers (that's you!). This week, we talk with USA TODAY reporter Jordan Mendoza about his work in Monterey Park. You can read Mendoza's most recent dispatch here. 

But first, don't miss these stories made possible by your USA TODAY subscription:

'I needed to be out there'

Upon receiving his assignment early Sunday morning, Mendoza quickly packed his equipment and rushed to meet fellow USA TODAY reporter Orlando Mayorquin in a CVS parking lot near the site of the shooting. The suspect was still at large.

"I knew I needed to be out there to understand what was happening and report anything I could," Mendoza said

"It’s sort of unsettling because you have no idea where this person could be, and if they could return to the site when you’re out and exposed," he said.

Mendoza had gathered basic details from a press conference when suddenly he was alerted the suspect was spotted in a van in Torrance, California. Mendoza then jumped in his car and drove about 40 minutes to the scene. The area was chaotic because police were assessing whether the van posed a hazardous materials risk.

"I was there for a while, watching as police approached and entered the vehicle, where we learned that the person in the van was dead," he said. "I was filing any reports I could throughout the day and stayed until the person in the van was determined to be the suspect in the shooting."

72-year-old Huu Can Tran was discovered in a white van in the nearby town of Torrance, California, where authorities found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.
72-year-old Huu Can Tran was discovered in a white van in the nearby town of Torrance, California, where authorities found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Mendoza's editor, Susan Miller, was managing the rapidly-changing information coming in from the scene: the shooting involved multiple locations; who the victims were; how a hero wrestled the gun from the suspect.

Miller has decades of breaking news experience and said this week's back-to-back shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and Oakland, California, reflect the need to not move on too quickly from one story to the next: "People move on, the audience moves on, but I feel sad when there's another shooting because I feel people are going to forget the last one ... We have a sense of responsibility to keep reflecting these communities."

"It was quite the journey," Mendoza said of staying on the story throughout the week, adding he learned of the Half Moon Bay shooting as he was leaving Monterey Park on Monday.

"Seeing how much a community close to where I live (was) hurt by a senseless tragedy, and learning that another one happened in my home state felt so devastating, almost to the point of feeling hopeless," Mendoza said.

Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Monterey Park on Wednesday provided some comfort to residents and victims' families, Mendoza said, adding he could tell some people were thankful Harris visited.

Throughout the week, the focus remained on the victims and their families.

"You could tell how much they were still hurting," he said. "It was tough, but I'm so thankful and so grateful for all of the community members who took the time to speak with me, on or off the record."

👉 Want to keep reading? From USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll: Covering mass shootings has become routine – and endless. But it doesn't get easier.

Thank you

Reporting on mass casualty events is a grueling part of a journalist's career. Our newsroom is so thankful to have the support of readers like you to make our necessary work possible. Please take care of yourselves this weekend and I'll be back next week with more top reads from USA TODAY.

Best wishes,

Nicole Fallert

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: It's Your Week: 'I needed to be out there'