Police: Suspect in Calif. church attack motivated by hate


(NewsNation) — The gunman in a deadly attack at a Southern California church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people, authorities said Monday.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting on Sunday that left one person dead and five others injured was a grievance between the shooter and the Taiwanese community.

China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of the shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods just before 1:30 p.m.

Barnes said the suspect drove to the Orange County church, where he was not a regular attendee, secured the doors and started shooting. The suspect allegedly used chains and superglue on multiple exit doors to prevent people from fleeing.

Dr. John Cheng, 52, was killed in the attack, authorities said at a Monday news conference.

Between 30 to 40 people were in the room at the time of the shooting attending a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church, police said. Four of the five people wounded suffered critical gunshot injuries.

The wounded victims were identified as Asian men, who were 66, 75, 82 and 92 years old, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said. Authorities originally said only four of the five surviving victims had been shot.

Barnes said Cheng, survived by a wife and two children, heroically charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene.

Officials said worshippers then hog-tied the suspect’s legs with an electrical cord until deputies arrived.

Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock praised the parishioners’ quick work to detain the gunman.

“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” Hallock said. “I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.”

The gunman had also placed 4 Molotov cocktail-like devices inside the church, according to the sheriff.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas has been booked on investigation of one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

Jail records show Chou is being held on $1 million bail. It’s not immediately known whether he has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

Chen, 72, a longtime congregant at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, peeked around the corner and saw church members screaming, running and ducking under tables.

“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911.”

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said his thoughts are with the victims of the shooting.

“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement,” Newsom said. “No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event.”

Violence in houses of worship includes the deadliest shooting inside a church, which occurred in 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church and killed more than two dozen people.

In 2015, Dylann Roof fired dozens of bullets during the closing prayer of a 2015 Bible study session at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. Nine members of the Black congregation were killed in the racist violence and Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. His appeal remains before the Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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