Authorities: Hate against Taiwanese led to church attack

  • Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Steinle displays a photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022.

    Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Steinle displays a photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Associated Press

  • Hector Gomez, left, and Jordi Poblete, worship leaders at the Mariners Church Irvine, leave flowers outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting.

    Hector Gomez, left, and Jordi Poblete, worship leaders at the Mariners Church Irvine, leave flowers outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. Associated Press

  • An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit checks the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting.

    An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit checks the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. Associated Press

  • An Orange County Sheriff's Department officer guards the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting.

    An Orange County Sheriff's Department officer guards the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. Associated Press

  • Balmore Orellana talks with a reporter about his former landlord and neighbor, David Chou, in Las Vegas, Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities in Orange County, Calif., say Chou opened fire with a gun a day earlier at a Southern California church before a pastor hit him with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords.

    Balmore Orellana talks with a reporter about his former landlord and neighbor, David Chou, in Las Vegas, Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities in Orange County, Calif., say Chou opened fire with a gun a day earlier at a Southern California church before a pastor hit him with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords. Associated Press

  • Crime scene tape is stretched across the exterior of the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting.

    Crime scene tape is stretched across the exterior of the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. Associated Press

  • An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit checks the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, following a fatal shooting.

    An Orange County Sheriff's Department K-9 unit checks the grounds at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, following a fatal shooting. Associated Press

  • Orange County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab investigators walk outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. A man opened fire during a lunch reception at the Southern California church on Sunday before he was stopped in what a sheriff's official called an act of "exceptional heroism and bravery."

    Orange County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab investigators walk outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. A man opened fire during a lunch reception at the Southern California church on Sunday before he was stopped in what a sheriff's official called an act of "exceptional heroism and bravery." Associated Press

  • Flowers are left outside Geneva Presbyterian Church for the victims of Sunday's shooting at the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Police are investigating a deadly shooting at the church following Sunday services, in which they said parishioners hog-tied and detained a man in his 60s who opened fire.

    Flowers are left outside Geneva Presbyterian Church for the victims of Sunday's shooting at the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Police are investigating a deadly shooting at the church following Sunday services, in which they said parishioners hog-tied and detained a man in his 60s who opened fire. Associated Press

  • In this photo released Monday, May 16, 2022, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department is David Chou. Authorities said Chou, the gunman in Sunday's deadly attack at a Southern California church, was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. Chou was booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. (Orange County Sheriff's Department via AP)

    In this photo released Monday, May 16, 2022, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department is David Chou. Authorities said Chou, the gunman in Sunday's deadly attack at a Southern California church, was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. Chou was booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. (Orange County Sheriff's Department via AP) Associated Press

  • Joanna Garcia, 47, leaves flowers outside Geneva Presbyterian Church to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a gunman in a deadly attack at the church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people.

    Joanna Garcia, 47, leaves flowers outside Geneva Presbyterian Church to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a gunman in a deadly attack at the church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. Associated Press

  • Flowers and a message honoring the victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church are placed outside the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a gunman in a deadly attack at the church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people.

    Flowers and a message honoring the victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church are placed outside the church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a gunman in a deadly attack at the church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. Associated Press

  • Jason Aguilar, left, a senior pastor at Arise Church, comforts Billy Chang, a 67-year-old Taiwanese pastor who survived Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before opening fire on a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners.

    Jason Aguilar, left, a senior pastor at Arise Church, comforts Billy Chang, a 67-year-old Taiwanese pastor who survived Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before opening fire on a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners. Associated Press

  • A photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, is displayed outside his office in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners.

    A photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, is displayed outside his office in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners. Associated Press

  • Two men chat at a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. The vigil was held to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before opening fire on a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners.

    Two men chat at a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. The vigil was held to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the church and hid firebombs before opening fire on a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners. Associated Press

  • People pray during a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. The vigil was held to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif.  Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners.

    People pray during a prayer vigil in Irvine, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. The vigil was held to honor victims in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif. Authorities say a Chinese-born gunman was motivated by hatred against Taiwan when he chained shut the doors of the California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mainly of elderly Taiwanese parishioners. Associated Press

 
 
Posted5/17/2022 7:00 AM

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. -- A Chinese-born gunman motivated by hatred against Taiwan chained shut the doors of a California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners, killing a man who tackled him, possibly saving dozens of lives, authorities said Monday.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas drove to Orange County on Saturday and the next day attended a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods. Though he knew no one there, he spent about an hour mingling with about 40 attendees and then executed his plot, authorities said at a news conference.

 

He chained the doors and put super glue in the keyholes. He had two 9 mm handguns - legally purchased years ago in Las Vegas - and three bags, containing among other things four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and extra ammunition. He opened fire and in the ensuing chaos Dr. John Cheng, 52, tackled him, allowing other parishioners to subdue him and tie him up with extension cords.

Cheng died and five people were wounded, the oldest 92. Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng's heroism 'a meeting of good versus evil" that probably saved the lives 'of upwards of dozens of people.'

Chou was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and jailed on $1 million bail. He was expected to appear in state court Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

Chou had worked as a security guard in Las Vegas, authorities said.

There was no immediate word on why Chou chose to target the church in Laguna Woods, a scenic coastal area whose population mainly consists of retirees and is near a large gated community.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, who he said was born in China and is a U.S. citizen, and the Taiwanese community.

Barnes said Chou acted alone and was not a regular attendee of the church..

'He is not believed to be associated with any specific church or any religion, and there's no direct connection to the church or any member of the church that we're aware of,' Barnes said.

A former neighbor said Chou's life unraveled after his wife left him. Chou had been a pleasant man who used to own the Las Vegas apartment building where he lived until February, Balmore Orellana told The Associated Press. Records showed the four-unit property was sold last October for a little more than $500,000.

Orellana said Chou's wife used the money from the sale to move to Taiwan.

Before Orellana moved in about five years ago, Chou received a head injury and other serious injuries in an attack by a tenant, the neighbor said. More recently his mental health declined and last summer a gun was fired inside Chou's apartment and the bullet entered Orellana's apartment, although nobody was hurt, Orellana said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Police reports about the assault and the shooting were not immediately available Monday.

Chou's family apparently was among many forcibly removed from China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Chou's hatred toward the island, documented in handwritten notes that authorities found, seems like it began when he felt he wasn't treated well while living there.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are at the highest in decades, with Beijing stepping up its military harassment by flying fighter jets toward the self-governing island. China has not ruled out force to reunify with Taiwan, which split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan's chief representative in the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, offered condolences to the families on Twitter.

'I join the families of the victims and Taiwanese American communities in grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded survivors,' Hsiao wrote on Sunday.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told the AP via email that the Chinese government has 'consistently condemned incidents of violence. We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured."

At the California church, the shooting erupted after Jerry Chen had just stepped into the kitchen of the church's fellowship hall around 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

Chen, 72, a longtime member of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, peeked around the corner and saw others screaming, running and ducking under tables.

'I knew someone was shooting," he said. 'I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911.'

Samuel Nganga, a member of Geneva and a caretaker for the church, said he was starting to clean up in the kitchen when he heard the shots. He and others crawled out on their hands and knees to escape.

Those wounded by gunshots included an 86-year-old woman as well as four men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, the sheriff's department said. Authorities on Monday said two of the wounded were in good condition, two were in stable condition and the status of the fifth patient was undetermined.

Chen said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang, a beloved and respected community member who had served the church for 20 years. Chang moved back to Taiwan two years ago. This was his first time back stateside, Chen said.

Everyone had just finished lunch and were taking photos with Chang when Chen went into the kitchen, he said. That's when he heard the gunshots.

Barnes said Cheng, a sports medicine doctor who is survived by a wife and two children, charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene. Chang hit the gunman on the head with a chair before other parishioners subdued him.

'I will tell you that evil was in that church,' Spitzer said, who added that Chou had 'an absolute bias' against Taiwan and its people.

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York in a racist rampage where the white gunman allegedly targeted a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Pastor Billy Chang has not retired.

___

Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Bharath reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Stefanie Dazio and John Antczak in Los Angeles and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed to this story. News Researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.

___

Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP's collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.