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California church shooting leaves 1 dead, 5 injured, authorities say


A man opened fire during a church luncheon in Southern California on Sunday, killing one person and injuring five elderly people before being arrested and tied up by parishioners in what a sheriff’s official said was a act of “exceptional heroism and bravery”.

Four of the five people injured suffered serious gunshot wounds during the violence at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in the town of Laguna Woods, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

The shooting suspect, an Asian man in his 60s, was in custody and deputies recovered two handguns from the scene, Deputy Sheriff Jeff Hallock said. The motive for the shooting was not immediately known, but investigators do not believe the shooter lives in the community, he said.

The majority of people inside the church at the time would be of Taiwanese descent, said Carrie Braun, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Between 30 and 40 members of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Irvine were gathered for lunch after an early morning church service in Geneva when gunfire erupted shortly before 1:30 p.m., officials said. When deputies arrived, parishioners had the shooter tied up and taken into custody.

“This group of worshipers displayed exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to arrest the suspect. They undoubtedly averted further injury and death,” Hallock said. “I think it’s safe to say that if people hadn’t intervened, it could have been a lot worse.”

The injured were four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said. Authorities initially said only four of the five surviving victims were shot.

Information about the person who was killed was not immediately released.

The investigation was in its early stages, Hallock said. He said the many unanswered questions include whether the attacker attended the church service, whether he was known to church members and how many shots were fired.

The afternoon lunch reception honored a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation, according to a statement from the Los Ranchos Presbytery, an administrative body of the church.

“Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting,” the rectory’s Tom Cramer said in a statement on Facebook.

Federal agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded. The FBI also sent agents to the scene to help the sheriff.

Laguna Woods was built as a senior citizens’ community and later became a town. More than 80% of residents in the city of 18,000 about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles are at least 65 years old.

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

“No one should be afraid to come to their place of worship. Our hearts go out to the victims, the community and everyone affected by this tragic event,” the tweet read.

The incident happened in an area with a cluster of places of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a Jewish synagogue.

On its website, the Presbyterian Church of Geneva describes its mission as “remembering, telling and living the way of Jesus by being just, kind and humble”.

“All are welcome here. Truly, we mean that! … Geneva aspires to be an inclusive congregation worshiping, learning, connecting, giving and serving together.”

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

“This is shocking and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo,” said U.S. Representative Katie Porter, whose district includes Laguna Woods. “This shouldn’t be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”


Weber reported from Los Angeles, with Associated Press reporter Stefanie Dazio.

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