Sheriff: Church Shooter Left Note Describing 'Hatred of Taiwanese People'

California shooting is being investigated as a hate crime
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2022 4:44 PM CDT
California Church Shooting Investigated as a Hate Crime
TV trucks are parked outside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – The deadly mass shooting at a church in southern California on Sunday was a "politically motived hate incident" carried out by an immigrant from mainland China, authorities say. David Chou, a 68-year-old Las Vegas resident, has been booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, NBC reports. FBI officials say a federal hate crime investigation has also been opened against Chou, who allegedly opened fire on a Taiwanese luncheon after a service at the Laguna Woods church. Based on preliminary information, "it is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan," Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Monday.

Barnes said the shooting "could have been much, much worse," if not for the actions of the mostly elderly parishioners, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authorities say Dr. John Cheng, 52, was fatally shot when he charged the shooter and tried to disarm him. Cheng's heroism "allowed other parishioners to then intercede," Barnes said. A visiting pastor hit Chou with a chair and other parishioners took his guns away and hog-tied him with electrical cords. Authorities say the suspect had placed incendiary devices inside the building and had chained the church's doors closed. "I will tell you that evil was in that church yesterday," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.

The sheriff said Chou left notes in his vehicle describing "his hatred of the Taiwanese people." Officials say the five people injured—an 86-year-old woman and four men ranging in age from 66 to 92 —are all Taiwanese citizens or of Taiwanese descent. Chou, who is an American citizen, is being held on $1 million bail. Former neighbor Balmore Orellana tells the AP that Chou once seemed like a pleasant man, but his behavior changed a few years ago after he was beaten almost to death by a tenant in an apartment building he owned. (Read more California stories.)

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