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Gunman and victim identified in Laguna Woods church shooting motivated by politics, hate

Orange County officials on Monday said David Chou has been booked on murder, attempted murder charges

Sheila Flynn,Josh Marcus
Monday 16 May 2022 22:52 BST
Police says Buffalo shooting was 'pure evil'
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A 68-year-old Las Vegas man has been identified as the suspect who opened fire on churchgoers Sunday in Laguna Woods, California - in an attack authorities said may have been politically motivated.

David Chou has been booked on one felony count of murder and five felony counts of attempted murder, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said Monday.

One person was killed and five others injured Sunday afternoon when a man attacked a lunch banquet at Geneva Presbyterian Church – before other members of the Taiwanese congregation tackled and hog-tied the suspect’s legs with extension cords.

Officials on Monday named John Cheng, 52, a doctor from Laguna Niguel, as the worshipper killed in the shooting. The injured victims range in age from 66 to 92 years old.

At a Monday news conference, Sheriff Donald Barnes said Chou, originally from China, had acted alone, motivated by anger over political tensions between China and Taiwan. He had no apparent ties to the church.

In addition to being armed with two handguns, officials alleged Chou locked church doors with chains, attempted to superglue locks and tried to nail at least one door shut; magazines of ammunition and incendiary devices were found at the scene, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The incident was “a manifestation of the ugliest part of our humanity that exists in our country today” and “we are not going to tolerate it,” Mr Barnes said Monday.

Chou, who lived by himself and worked security in Las Vegas, was being held in California on $1million bail with a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday.

The FBI has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting, according to Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the bureau’s Los Angeles office, the LA Times reported.

Emergency dispatchers received calls of a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods at 1.26pm PT (9.26 am BST) on 15 May, according to the sheriff’s office.

According to witnesses, Mr Cheng charged the suspect before being fatally wounded, allowing others to subdue the gunman, officials said - hailing the prominent doctor as a hero.

“After others had been shot, he took it upon himself to charge across the room and to do everything he could to disable the assailant,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, according to the LA Times. “He was shot, and then there was an attempt to shoot him again, but the gun jammed, and he succumbed to his injuries.”

The suspect was still tied up when officers arrived, undersheriff Jeff Hallock said at a press conference following the shooting.

“Had people not intervened , it could’ve been much worse,” he said. “There were 30 to 40 people in the church.”

In addition to local police, the LA offices of the FBI and ATF are assisting with the investigation.

An ATF agent said on Sunday that the agency had put an “emergency” trace on the weapons used in the shooting, which were “commercially made” and contained legible serial numbers.

Police are also looking through the large church compound for evidence.

Linguists have been brought on scene to assist with the case.

Leaders lamented the violence at the church, coming just a day after 10 were killed in the mass shooting in New York.

“Today is a very dark day for the people of Laguna Woods and Orange County,” said Lisa Bartlett of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “We too are now dealing with people shot.”

California US Rep Katie Porter, who represents a swath of Orange County in Congress, said in the wake of shootings in Laguna Woods and Buffalo, shootings have become “a nationwide epidemic”.

“We need elected officials across the country and at every level of government to step up and lead—not just think and pray,” she said.

Community members said they were shocked such violence had come in their community.

“I could not even imagine something like this could happen here,” Charlotte Hsieh, an organist at the church who left about an hour-and-a-half before the shooting started, told The New York Times. “I’m just as shocked as anybody.”

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