The suspect in Sunday’s shooting at a church in Laguna Woods, California seemed to be motivated by hatred of Taiwanese people and the political tensions between China and Taiwan, Orange County sheriff’s officials stated Monday.
The shooting on Sunday that left 1 dead and 5 injured was carried out at the Geneva Presbyterian Church against members of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church that met in Geneva’s building. The victims’ ages ranged from 52-years old to 92-years old.
The suspect, David Wen-wei Chou, 68, was a U.S. citizen who had immigrated from China and lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. Police stated that they recovered both physical and digital evidence of his explicit hatred towards Taiwanese people and Taiwan.
The FBI has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the case, stated Kristi Johnson, a FBI assistant director.
It remains unclear as to why this particular Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Orange County, California was targeted. Officials said that there were no known ties between Chou and the church. However, officials stated the attack was methodically carried out.
The church was holding a lunch banquet to honor their pastor, Billy Chang. The suspect was in the church, for an unknown amount of time prior to shooting. Church members greeted and welcomed the suspect, churchgoer Jerry Chen told the LA Times. During his time in the church, the suspect reportedly hid Molotov cocktail-like incendiary devices and additional ammunition in bags behind a curtain and sealed several doors with chains, disabled locks with superglue and nailed another door shut.
“Everyone had just finished lunch,” Chen told the AP. “They were taking photos with Pastor Chang. I had just finished my lunch and went into the kitchen.”
Then the suspect opened fire.
One parishioner, Dr. John Cheng, 52, charged across the room and tackled the shooter. This allowed “other parishioners to then intercede,” Sheriff Don Barnes stated. Cheng was unfortunately shot and killed.
Officials praised and highlighted Cheng’s heroic actions. Cheng leaves behind a wife and two children.
“He sacrificed himself so others could live,” said Todd Spitzer, the Orange County District Attorney.
With the distraction provided by Cheng, the other parishioners were able to intervene. Pastor Chang hit the shooter with a chair, and parishioners hog-tied the shooter with electrical cords before police arrived.
“The majority of the people in attendance were elderly, and they acted spontaneously and heroically, and if not for their quick action, the way that this individual set up that environment to kill many more people, there would have been many, many more lives lost,” Barnes said.
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Image: Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California. (Photo courtesy of Geneva Presbyterian Church).