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As the United States was rocked by deadly gun violence over the weekend, a shooting at an Orange County church on Sunday left Southern California reeling when a gunman motivated by hatred of the Taiwanese people fired on worshipers who succeeded in stopping the bloodshed.

Authorities on Monday identified the suspect, charged with killing one person and injuring five others at the Presbyterian Church in Geneva, as David Chou of Las Vegas. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department charged the 68-year-old with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder and was being held on $1million bond.

‘Exceptional courage’: California worshipers tie up gunman in deadly attack on church – video

The violence in Irvine, about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, unfolded during a weekend of horrific gun violence across America, including in Buffalo where an 18-year-old white supremacist years killed 10 people in a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood. . In Los Angeles, a man died on Saturday in a shooting at Grand Central Market. Some of the patrons had discussed the shooting in New York when the gunfire started and forced them to flee for cover.

More people could have died in the Laguna Woods church shooting on Saturday had it not been for worshipers, authorities said. The shooter opened fire during a lunch banquet at the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Irvine, which worships the Presbyterian in Geneva, but was stopped when a pastor hit him in the head with a chair and parishioners used electrical cords to restrain him until police arrived.

John Cheng, 52, was killed in the shooting, authorities said at a news conference on Monday.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive for the shooting was a grievance between Chou, identified as a Chinese immigrant, and the Taiwanese community. China claims that Taiwan is part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to submit the island to its rule.

Chou is scheduled to appear in state court on Tuesday and it was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also underway.

Chou’s family was among many people apparently deported from China to Taiwan shortly after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Chou’s hatred of the island, allegedly documented in handwritten notes found by authorities, appears to have started when he felt he was not being treated well while living there.

Barnes said Chou is an American citizen and has been in the United States for years. It is not known how long Chou had lived in Taiwan.

Barnes said Chou went to the church in Orange County, where he was not a regular, secured the doors and started shooting. He had also placed four devices resembling molotov cocktails inside the church, the sheriff said. Chou legally purchased the two 9mm pistols used in the Las Vegas shooting, said Stephen Galloway, assistant special agent in charge of ATF Los Angeles.

Barnes said Cheng, left behind by a wife and two children, heroically charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene. A pastor hit the shooter in the head with a chair and parishioners tied him up with electrical cords. But Barnes said Cheng was hit by gunfire.

“Understanding that there were old people everywhere and they couldn’t get out of the premises because the doors had been chained…he took it upon himself to charge across the room and do whatever he could to disable the aggressor,” Spitzer said.

A former neighbor said Chou’s life fell apart after his wife left. Chou was a pleasant man who owned the Las Vegas apartment building where he lived until February, according to Balmore Orellana, the Associated Press reported.

Records show the four-unit property sold last October for just over $500,000. Orellana said Chou’s wife used the money from the sale to move to Taiwan, the AP reported.

Before Orellana moved in about five years ago, Chou had received a head and other serious injuries in an attack by a tenant, the neighbor said. More recently his mental health had declined and last summer a bullet entered Orellana’s apartment after a gun was fired inside Chou’s apartment, although no one was was injured, Orellana said.

Police reports of the assault and shooting were not immediately available Monday, according to the AP.

Jerry Chen, 72, a longtime church member, said he had just walked into a church kitchen when he heard gunshots and people started screaming. Glancing around the corner, he saw people running and hiding under tables.

“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911. Chen said he was so shocked he couldn’t tell the operator the location of church and had to ask someone else for the address.

California police say 68-year-old suspect in church shooting was motivated by hate |  California
John Cheng was killed in Sunday’s shooting at the Presbyterian Church in Geneva. Photo: Jae C Hong/AP

About 40 people had gathered in the communion hall for lunch after a morning service to welcome their former pastor Billy Chang, said Chen, who worked at the church for 20 years. Chang, a beloved and respected member of the community, returned to Taiwan two years ago, Chen said, adding that it was his first time returning to the United States.

“Everyone had just finished having lunch,” he said. “They were taking pictures with Pastor Chang. I had just finished my lunch and went into the kitchen.

Then he heard the gunshots and fled to the parking lot. Companions from the congregation told Chen that when the shooter stopped to reload, Pastor Chang hit him on the head with a chair. Others quickly went to grab the shooter’s gun, overpowered him and tied him up, Chen said.

“It was amazing to see how brave (Chang) and the others were,” he said. “It’s so sad. I never thought something like this would happen in my church, in my community.

Most church members are older, highly educated Taiwanese immigrants, Chen said. “We are mostly retirees and the average age of our church is 80,” he said.

All of those injured in the shooting were elderly, and four of them suffered serious gunshot wounds. Among the gunshot wounds are four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said. The majority of people inside the church at the time would be of Taiwanese descent, said Carrie Braun, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

Laguna Woods, where the shooting took place, was built as a senior citizens’ community and later became a town. More than 80% of the residents of the city of 18,000 are at least 65 years old.

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

The sheriff’s office said the investigation is in its early stages and investigators are investigating whether he was known to church members and the number of shots fired.
The afternoon lunch reception was to honor 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.

On its website, the Presbyterian Church of Geneva states that its mission is “to remember, tell and live 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 governor’s office said on Twitter that it was closely monitoring the situation.

“No one should be afraid to go 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 United States has witnessed several shootings inside places of worship in recent years. The deadliest incident took place in 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church and killed more than two dozen people.

In 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof fired dozens of bullets during the closing prayer of a Bible study session at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof killed nine members of the black congregation and was the first person in the United States sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. His appeal remains before the Supreme Court.

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