While the United States was rocked by terrible gun violence over the weekend, a shooting at an Orange County church left southern California reeling on Sunday when a gunman motivated by hatred towards Taiwanese people opened fire on attendees, who managed to stop the killing.
Authorities identified the suspect as David Chou of Las Vegas, who is accused of killing one person and wounded five others at the Geneva Presbyterian church. The 68-year-old was charged with felony murder and five felony charges of attempted murder and was being held on $1 million bond by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The shooting in Irvine, roughly 50 miles south of Los Angeles, occurred during a weekend of horrendous gun violence across the United States, notably in Buffalo, where an 18-year-old white supremacist massacred ten people at a grocery store in a mostly Black community. On Saturday, a man was killed in a shooting at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. When the rounds rang out, some of the patrons were discussing the shooting in New York, forcing them to leave for safety.
Authorities believe that if churchgoers had not intervened in the Laguna Woods church massacre on Saturday, more people might have perished. The shooter started fire during a lunch buffet at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian, but was stopped when a pastor whacked him in the head with a chair and parishioners restrained him with electrical wires until police came.
Authorities claimed at a Monday press conference that John Cheng, 52, was killed in the shooting.
The cause for the shooting, according to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, was a grudge between Chou, a Chinese immigrant, and the Taiwanese community. China claims Taiwan as part of its sovereignty and has not ruled out using force to subjugate the island.
Chou is scheduled to appear in state court on Tuesday, and it was not immediately apparent whether he will be represented by a counsel. A federal inquiry into hate crimes is also proceeding.
According to Todd Spitzer, the Orange County District Attorney, Chou’s family was among several who were allegedly forcibly transferred from China to Taiwan sometime around 1948. Chou’s hatred for the island appears to have started when he believed he wasn’t treated well while living there, according to handwritten notes discovered by officials.
Chou, according to Barnes, was a US citizen who had lived in the country for years. Chou had lived in Taiwan for an unknown amount of time.
Chou drove to an Orange County church where he was not a regular member, bolted the doors, and began firing, according to Barnes. According to the sheriff, he had also planted four molotov cocktail-like devices inside the church. According to Stephen Galloway, ATF Los Angeles assistant special agent in charge, Chou legally acquired the two 9mm pistols used in the Las Vegas shooting.
According to Barnes, Cheng, who is survived by his wife and two children, charged at the shooter and sought to disarm him heroically, allowing others to intervene. The gunman was hog-tied with electrical cords after a pastor whacked him in the head with a chair. Cheng, though, was injured by gunfire, according to Barnes.
“Understanding that there was elderly everywhere and they couldn’t get out of the premises because the doors had been chained … he took it upon himself to charge across the room and to do everything he could to disable the assailant,” said Spitzer.
Chou’s life had deteriorated, according to a former neighbor, after his wife left him. According to Balmore Orellana of the Associated Press, Chou was a kind man who used to own the Las Vegas apartment building where he lived until February.
According to public records, the four-unit property was sold for just over $500,000. According to the Associated Press, Orellana said Chou’s wife utilized the proceeds from the sale to relocate to Taiwan.
Chou had suffered a head injury and other significant injuries in an attack by a renter before Orellana moved there approximately five years ago, according to a neighbor. His mental condition has deteriorated recently, and last summer a bullet entered Orellana’s apartment after a gun was discharged inside Chou’s, though no one was injured, according to Orellana.
According to the Associated Press, police details on the attack and shooting were not immediately available on Monday.
Jerry Chen, 72, a regular churchgoer, claimed he had just entered a church kitchen when he heard gunfire and people screaming. People were scurrying and cowering beneath tables as he peered around the corner.
“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911.” Chen said he was so shocked that he couldn’t tell the operator the church’s location and had to ask someone else for the address.
After a morning service, about 40 people met in the fellowship hall for a luncheon to greet their former Pastor Billy Chang, who worked at the church for 20 years, Chen said. Chang, a well-liked and respected member of the community, returned to Taiwan two years ago, Chen said, adding that this was his first trip back to the United States.
He explained, “Everyone had just eaten lunch.” “They were photographing Pastor Chang.” I went into the kitchen after finishing my lunch.”
He hurried out to the parking lot after hearing gunshots. Pastor Chang attacked the gunman with a chair when he stopped to reload, according to fellow parishioners. Others instantly grabbed the shooter’s gun, subdued him, and tied him up, according to Chen.
He described [Chang’s] and the others’ bravery as “wonderful.” “This is heartbreaking. I never imagined something like this happening in my church or town.”
According to Chen, the majority of the church’s members are older, well-educated Taiwanese immigrants. “We’re largely retirees, and our church’s average age is 80,” he explained.
The victims of the shooting were all older citizens, with four of them suffering significant bullet wounds. Four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82, and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman were among those injured by bullets, according to the sheriff’s department. According to Carrie Braun, a sheriff’s spokesperson, the majority of persons inside the church at the time were of Taiwanese heritage.
Laguna Woods, where the incident took place, began as a senior living community before evolving into a metropolis. More over 80% of the city’s 18,000 population are 65 years old or older.
The incident occurred near several places of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, as well as a Jewish synagogue.
The inquiry is still in its early stages, according to the sheriff’s office, and investigators are looking into whether he was known to church members and how many shots were fired.
According to a statement from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, a church administrative body, the afternoon lunch celebration intended to honor a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation.
In a message on Facebook, the presbytery’s Tom Cramer stated, “Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for individuals traumatized by this shooting.”
Geneva Presbyterian Church’s aim, according to its website, is to “remember, tell, and practice the way of Jesus by being just, loving, and humble.”
“Everyone is welcome here. We really mean it! Geneva strives to be a welcoming congregation that worships, learns, connects, gives, and serves together.”
On Twitter, the governor’s office stated that he was keeping a careful eye on the situation.
“No one should be afraid of visiting their place of worship.” “Our hearts go out to the victims, the community, and everyone who has been affected by this awful occurrence,” the tweet added.