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Shooting at Taiwanese church in California that killed 1, wounded 5 investigated as hate crime, FBI says


One person died and five were injured in the shooting that took place at Laguna Woods’ Geneva Presbyterian Church on May 15, 2022. A staff member of the church raises a police tape so that a car can exit the Geneva Presbyterian Church. According to NBC News, the shooting was motivated in part by tensions between China, Taiwan and China, officials said Monday.

Robyn Beck | Afp | Getty Images

Authorities said that a Las Vegas man was behind Sunday’s attack on a gathering of Asian churchgoers. The shooting left five people injured and one dead.

David Chou, age 68, was booked in jail with the recommended charges of one murder charge and five attempted murders. the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

Kristi Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that a federal hate crimes investigation had been opened against Chou to determine whether additional charges can be brought.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the briefing that the was shooting “a politically motived hate incident.” Barnes said Chou, an U.S. citizen from China, “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.”

Chou traveled to Southern California on Saturday before the attack Sunday on the church, where he is accused of securing doors with chains and using glue to disable locks. No connection has been established between Chou and the church or any of its parishioners, Barnes said.

The victim killed in the attack, Dr. John Cheng, 53, of Laguna Niguel, charged the gunman and tried to disarm him, which led to his being fatally shot, Barnes said.

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

“Dr. Cheng is a hero,” he said. “It is known that Dr. Cheng charged the individual, the suspect, attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to then intercede, taking the suspect into custody.”

The shooting targeted members of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, Barnes said, which shared a space with Geneva Presbyterian Church.

Congregants were celebrating the return of a pastor from a mission to Taiwan, Barnes said.

Barnes added that other congregants, who were elderly, also risked their lives and confronted the gunman, including a pastor who threw a chair at him.

“They acted spontaneously, 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.

Investigators found several bags of ammunition in the church, as well as four Molotov cocktail-type incendiary devices, Barnes said.

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

After Cheng charged him, the gunman was detained by members of the church, who hogtied him with electrical extension cords, the sheriff’s department said.

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

Investigators said there is no evidence, at this point, that the gunman was working with others. Barnes said Chou had a personal grievance with the Taiwanese community.

Sheriff’s officials said about 40 people who belong to the Taiwanese church were at the facility when gunfire broke out.

The gunfire was reported at 1:26 p.m. in the retirement city of Laguna Woods, about 20 miles southeast of Anaheim, the sheriff’s department said.

Four victims suffered critical injuries, they said.

The sheriff’s department identified the injured victims Sunday night as Asian Americans ages 66 to 92. Four are men.

The victim’s body was discovered at the scene, sheriff’s officials said. All of the surviving victims, including a person with minor injuries, were hospitalized.

Two people admitted to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo on Sunday were reported to be in good condition Monday, the hospitalIn a statement

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

On Sunday, he said that “evil was at the church”.

Spitzer stated, “It was evident from the scene they had to leave there as soon as possible in an extreme panic.”

Tom Cramer was a co-executive of the Presbytery in Los Ranchos which is a network of Orange County Presbytery churches. He said that the violence occurred during a luncheon to honor a former pastor.

According to him, the “deeply disturbed” organization had been hit by the shooting during a lunch recess. statement.

As they offer support to the victims of this tragedy, please keep Geneva and Taiwan’s leadership in your prayers.

Laguna Woods Village and Laguna Woods Village offer a private community for seniors 55+ and their loved ones. It includes the village and large parts are gated.

It is made up of single-family residences, townhouses and apartments. The city was originally known as Leisure World and it became the 32nd largest in the county in 1999.

Dallas Police said Friday that they were searching for someone with Asian heritage who could be targeting Asian people. in a series of shootings.

Three Korean women were injured in a shooting at a hair salon Wednesday. Eddie Garcia, Chief of Police said that the police were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Asian Americans have been the target of attacks skyrocketed in recent years.