Dr. John Cheng, who was killed in a shooting at a Taiwanese church in southern California on Sunday that also left five injured, is remembered as a “caring, kind and humble” member of the community.
Cheng was a 52-year-old sports doctor and father of two. He was attending a lunch banquet at Irvine Taiwan Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, about 45 miles south of Los Angeles, with his mother when the shooting began. He tackled the shooter in an attempt to stop him and suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Cheng was pronounced dead at the scene.
At a news conference on Monday, Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng a “hero” for trying to protect others at the church.
“It is known that Dr. Cheng accused the individual, the suspect, of trying to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to then intervene, taking the suspect into custody,” said Barnes.
“Without Dr. Cheng’s actions, there is no doubt that there would be many more victims in this crime,” Barnes added.
The suspect, David Chou, 68, was arrested and taken into custody on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
In addition to his work as a doctor, Cheng was an active member of the community, including volunteering with the local high school football team.
“Dr. Cheng was a caring, kind, and humble man. He put the needs of others before his own,” Andrew Mashburn, the school’s athletic director, wrote in an email to NBC Asian America. his Fridays in the fall to stand on the sidelines of our football games and help out with injuries. Our coach was able to refer many of our student-athletes to his office where he would prioritize them for help.
He said Cheng also offered discounted annual physical exams to students and donated money to the school’s athletic programs.
“It doesn’t surprise me to hear about the situation – that he does what he did. His needs were always secondary to others, and that’s what his heroic actions showed. Our thoughts go out to his family, colleagues and loved ones. He will be greatly missed by our community and will be truly irreplaceable,” Mashburn said.
His colleagues also described him as a “humble and generous man”.
“Dr. Cheng was a natural protector and healer,” said Johnna Gherardini, executive director of the South Coast Medical Group, where Cheng also worked. “It was characteristic of Dr. Cheng to charge the shooter forward. It surprises none of us that he is the hero! Dr. Cheng, illustrated, what it was built for. His heroism saved so many people not only in this church but throughout his career.
Joe Cockrell, 46, a patient of Cheng’s, remembers him as being “very passionate” about youth fitness and sports and teaching children about healthy lifestyles and having a “kind and caring attitude at the patient’s bedside.
“My heart breaks for his family. I know he will miss his patients very much. I can tell you that,” he said.
Others posted their condolences for Cheng online, including Johnny Stanton, a Cleveland Browns guard who was a patient of Cheng’s.
Barnes called the shooting Monday a “politically motivated hate incident” and said Chou, a US citizen, “was upset about the political tensions between China and Taiwan.”
Chou was first identified by investigators as a Chinese immigrant, but Taiwan’s Central News Agency has since reported that he was born in Taiwan.
The shooting came days after three Korean women were gunned down at a hair salon in Koreatown in Dallas.