Note: This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. to include more information out of authorities’ Monday news conference.
The suspect in a shooting that killed one and injured five others at a Taiwanese church event in Laguna Woods on Sunday was politically motivated by “hate” for Taiwanese people and was “upset” about political tensions between China and Taiwan, said authorities at a Monday news conference.
OC Sheriff Don Barnes identified the shooting suspect as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, who Barnes said drove to Orange County on Saturday.
John Cheng, who authorities identified as a sports medicine doctor living in Laguna Niguel, died after what’s been described as an act of heroism in the moments the shooting unfolded – “tackling” the shooter to disarm him and sustaining fatal gunshot wounds in the process.
Without the actions of Cheng, “there’s no doubt” there would’ve been additional casualties at the church, Barnes said.
Churchgoers wrestled down and disarmed Chou, who was armed with two handguns, said authorities in previous remarks on Sunday. By the time deputies got there, churchgoers had “hogtied” Chou with an electrical extension cord.
Authorities say the suspect is not currently believed to have any ties to the church that was targeted on Sunday, which is called the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. Its congregates use the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods as a physical space.
“It is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan,” Barnes told reporters.
The big issue between mainland China and the island located roughly 100 miles from its coast is one of national sovereignty.
Taiwan sees itself as an independent nation, while China’s efforts at ‘reunification’ have in turn suppressed the island’s national selfhood.
Chou, the shooting suspect, is a U.S. citizen who immigrated from China but also spent time in Taiwan, said authorities. Chou lived in other states including Texas, and worked as a security guard in Las Vegas, said Barnes, who added Chou is not believed to be associated with any religion or church.
Officials said they located several bags containing magazines with additional ammunition and four Molotov Cocktail-like incendiary devices that the suspect had placed inside the church.
Las Vegas police conducted a search warrant of Chou’s residence in Las Vegas and collected “electronic devices” and a cell phone.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told reporters the suspect’s eligible for life without parole, “or death.”
Sunday’s shooting, which also wounded five people, comes a day after a grocery store shooting in Buffalo, in which a white gunman targeted Black shoppers, killed 10 people, and live-streamed the killings on Twitch with the N-word written on the semi-automatic rifle.
Thousands of miles across the country, Barnes on Monday said “it’s unfortunate we now live in an environment where we have to train for these incidents.”
An earlier version of this story misspelled David Chou’s name. We regret the error.
And since you’ve made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.