Taiwanese church shooting in California that left 1.5 injured, investigated as hate crimes, FBI says

A Las Vegas man suspected of Sunday’s shooting that left one dead and five others injured at a gathering of Asian churchgoers in Southern California was motivated by political tensions between China and Taiwan, authorities said Monday.

David Chou, 68, has been jailed on the recommended charges of one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, according to a statement from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department

Kristi Johnson, deputy director of the FBI in Los Angeles, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that a federal hate crime investigation has been opened against Chou to see if additional charges can be brought against him.

During the same media briefing, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes called the shooting “a politically motivated hate incident.”

Chou traveled to Southern California on Saturday before Sunday’s attack, where he secured doors with chains and used superglue to knock out locks. No connection has been made between Chou and the church or any parishioners there, Barnes said.

The victim who died in the attack, Dr. John Cheng, 53, of Laguna Niguel, attacked and attempted to disarm Chou, leading to his being fatally shot, Barnes said.

Cheng was a married father of two who was highly respected in the field of sports medicine, Barnes said.

‘Dr. Cheng is a hero,” he said. “Dr. Cheng is known to have charged the person, the suspect, with attempting to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to mediate and take the suspect into custody.”

The shooting targeted members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, Barnes said, who shared a room with the Presbyterian Church in Geneva.

Church members celebrated the return of a minister who had gone on a mission to Taiwan, Barnes said.

Barnes added that other elderly members of the congregation also risked their lives and confronted the suspect, including a pastor who threw a chair at Chou.

“They acted spontaneously, heroically, and without their quick action, the way this person set up that environment, to kill a lot more people, many, many more lives would have been lost,” Barnes said.

Investigators found several bags of ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-type incendiaries in the church, Barnes said.

Chou has lived in Texas and held security jobs in Las Vegas, Barnes said. Search warrants have been issued at his Nevada residence, as well as a vehicle located in the church’s parking lot, he said.

After Cheng charged Chou, he was detained by church members, who tied him up with electrical extension cords, according to the sheriff’s department.

Stephen Galloway, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said two 9mm semi-automatic pistols were found. Chou bought the guns in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2017.

Investigators said there is no evidence, at the moment Chou was working with others. Barnes said Chou had a personal complaint with the Taiwanese community.

Sheriff officials said about 40 people belonging to the Taiwanese church were at the facility when gunfire broke out.

The gunfire was reported at 1:26 p.m. in the old town of Laguna Woods, about 20 miles southeast of Anaheim, the sheriff said.

Four victims suffered serious injuries, they said.

The sheriff’s department on Sunday night identified the injured as Asian Americans, ranging in age from 66 to 92. Four men.

The victim’s body was found at the scene, sheriffs said. All surviving victims, including one person with minor injuries, were hospitalized.

Two people admitted to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo on Sunday after the shooting are said to be in good condition on Monday, according to a hospital statement.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said during a news conference Monday that he walked through the crime scene — a social hall with tables and plastic cups — after the massacre.

He said on Sunday “evil was in the church”.

“It was clear from the scene that in utter panic they wanted to leave as quickly as possible,” Spitzer said.

Tom Cramer, co-director of a network of Presbyterian churches in Orange County, the Los Ranchos rectory, said the violence took place over a luncheon honoring a former pastor of the congregation.

The organization “is deeply saddened by a deadly shooting that took place during a luncheon reception,” it said in a statement. statement

“Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese Municipality and Geneva in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting.”

Laguna Woods and Laguna Woods Village are relatively exclusive communities for the over-55s and their companions or loved ones. Large parts of it, including the village, are fenced.

The city consists of single-family homes, townhouses, and apartment-style apartments. It opened in 1964 as Leisure World, becoming the county’s 32nd city in 1999.

On Friday, police in Dallas said they were looking for a person who might attack people of Asian descent in a series of shootings.

Three Korean women were injured in a shooting at a hair salon on Wednesday. Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the department was investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

Attacks on Asian Americans have exploded in recent years.