Laguna Woods shooting: California church attack politically motivated

Orange County police say attack was politically motivated against Taiwanese people

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Police on Monday said the attack by suspected gunman David Chou on a church in Laguna Woods, California, was politically motivated.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that Mr Chou’s violent attack in Laguna Woods, a community of mostly elderly residents, was motivated by his hatred of Taiwan and recent tension between Taiwan and mainland China.

Mr Chou, a US citizen of Chinese origin living in Las Vegas, Nevada, stands accused of killing Dr John Cheng and injuring five others at a Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, police said during a Monday news conference.

After driving to the Orange County church, where he was not a regular member, Mr Chou secured the doors and began shooting during a luncheon. He had also placed four Molotov cocktail-like devices inside the room, Mr Barnes said.

Cheng, survived by a wife and two children, charged at the suspect in an attempt to disarm him, the sheriff said, likely saving the lives "of upwards of dozens of people".

Police said that after the gunman opened fire, parishioners were able to take his weapon and tie him up with an electric cord until deputies arrived.

“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect,” Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said.

“They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities.”

“I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.”

The wounded include four Asian men ranging in age from 66 to 92 years old and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the department said, with four of the five people sustaining critical injuries.

Mr Chou is currently being held on $1 million bail, jail records show.

Between 30 and 40 members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church had gathered for lunch after a morning church service at Geneva when the gunman opened fire shortly before 1.30pm, officials said.

The afternoon lunch reception was given in honour of a former pastor, said a statement from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, a church administrative body.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation.

“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community and all those impacted by this tragic event,” the tweet said.

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man allegedly shot and killed 10 people in a racially motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: May 16, 2022, 9:20 PM