California Church Shooting Was ‘Hate Incident,’ Sheriff Says

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The gunman who opened occurrence connected a Taiwanese religion congregation successful Laguna Woods, Calif., connected Sunday, sidesplitting 1 and injuring five, was motivated by governmental hatred, the Orange County Sheriff said.


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Don Barnes, the Orange County sheriff, described the shooting arsenic a “politically motivated hatred incident” against the Taiwanese assemblage by the suspect, a U.S. national who emigrated from China.CreditCredit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times

May 16, 2022Updated 4:52 p.m. ET

A Las Vegas antheral who the authorities accidental opened occurrence connected a Taiwanese congregation astatine a Southern California religion connected Sunday — sidesplitting 1 idiosyncratic and injuring 5 others earlier the pastor and congregants overpowered and hogtied him — was motivated by hatred, the Orange County sheriff said connected Monday.

The suspect, David Chou, 68, a U.S. national who emigrated from China, was charged with execution and 5 felony counts of attempted execution for what Don Barnes, the sheriff, described astatine a quality league connected Monday arsenic a “politically motivated hatred incident” prompted by grievances against the Taiwanese community.

The shooting occurred astatine astir 1:26 p.m. section clip connected Sunday wrong the Geneva Presbyterian Church successful Laguna Woods, Calif., astir 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles successful a divers assemblage mostly made up of retirees. It has a well-established Asian population.

Most of the victims were of Taiwanese descent and ranged successful property from 66 to 92, Sheriff Barnes said. Four of the victims were critically wounded, but their conditions improved connected Monday, the authorities said. The F.B.I. said it had opened a national hate-crime probe connected Monday.

John Cheng, 52, was changeable and killed aft helium tackled the gunman and tried to disarm him, Sheriff Barnes said. Mr. Cheng’s involution allowed the pastor astatine the religion to propulsion a seat astatine the gunman portion others restrained him, helium said.

“Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is nary uncertainty that determination would beryllium galore further victims successful this crime,” Sheriff Barnes said.


The congregants “displayed what we judge   is exceptional heroism and bravery successful  interfering, successful  intervening, to halt  the suspect,” Undersheriff Jeff Hallock of Orange County, Calif., said connected  Sunday.
Credit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times

Bags filled with magazines of ammunition, arsenic good arsenic respective incendiary devices, were recovered wrong the church, Sheriff Barnes said.

The gunman had secured the religion doors with chains and had attempted to disable the locks with glue, the sheriff said, adding that helium besides tried to nail 1 of the building’s doors shut.

“The bulk of the radical successful attendance were elderly, and they acted spontaneously and heroically,” Sheriff Barnes said. “And if not for their speedy action, the mode that this idiosyncratic acceptable up that situation to termination galore much people, determination would person been many, galore much lives lost.”

The authorities said the fishy fired wrong the religion portion the members ate luncheon aft a greeting service. The churchgoers hogtied the gunman with an hold cord and confiscated 2 weapons earlier deputies arrived and took him into custody, Sheriff Barnes said.

“That radical of churchgoers displayed what we judge is exceptional heroism and bravery successful interfering, successful intervening, to halt the suspect,” Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said astatine a quality league connected Sunday. “They undoubtedly prevented further injuries and fatalities.”

Sheriff Barnes said that investigators had recovered notes successful Mr. Chou’s car, which was parked extracurricular the church, that were impervious of his “hatred of the Taiwanese people.”

The shooting happened astatine a unsafe infinitesimal successful the decades-long impasse betwixt China and Taiwan. China has laid assertion to Taiwan since the land divided disconnected from the mainland successful 1949, and it has threatened to forcibly reunite the two. Beijing has signaled its intentions toward Taiwan successful menacing ways, sending subject jets to buzz the island connected a near-daily ground past fall.

More recently, Russia’s penetration of Ukraine has convinced officials successful Washington and Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, that a Chinese penetration of Taiwan successful the coming years is simply a imaginable danger.

The authorities said they were interviewing much than 30 radical who were wrong the religion during the shooting. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said connected Twitter that it was helping with the investigation.

In a bid of substance messages connected Sunday, the Rev. Albany Lee, who presides implicit the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which is housed connected the field of the Geneva Presbyterian Church, said that congregants told him that the gunman “was a caller face.”

“No 1 recognizes the shooter,” Mr. Lee said, adding that erstwhile a receptionist asked the gunman who helium was, “he said helium was present before.”

Mr. Lee said that the idiosyncratic who subdued the gunman was a pastor who led the services connected Sunday.

That pastor, who was not injured, had “subdued the shooter earlier helium loaded different circular of bullets,” helium said. “Thank God,” helium added.


Credit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times

Cynthia Conners, the politician pro tem of Laguna Woods, said that she had been a subordinate of the religion since 2006 and had attended services connected Sunday morning. Ms. Conners, who near the religion astatine astir noon, said that the Taiwanese congregation shares the religion space.

The religion is successful a peaceful status assemblage successful a harmless neighborhood, said Charlotte Hsieh, the organist for the church. “I could not adjacent ideate thing similar this could hap here,” she said. “I’m conscionable arsenic shocked arsenic anybody.”

Lisa Bartlett, an Orange County supervisor, said astatine the quality league connected Sunday that “today is simply a precise acheronian day.”

She noted that the religion shooting had travel conscionable a time aft “the tragic and hate-filled actions that led to the senseless deaths” successful Buffalo, wherever astir each of the 10 radical who were changeable and killed were Black.

Representative Katie Porter, the Democratic subordinate of Congress who represents Orange County, described the quality arsenic disturbing, particularly fixed the shooting successful Buffalo. “This should not beryllium our caller normal,” she said.

Reporting was contributed by Jill Cowan, Shawn Hubler, Christopher Mele, Vimal Patel and Livia Albeck-Ripka.

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