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Laguna Woods community returns to site of deadly mass shooting for church service

Laguna Woods community gathers for first service since deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church
Laguna Woods community gathers for first service since deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church 02:02

The Laguna Woods community was back in church Sunday after a tragic mass shooting left one man dead and five others wounded. 

The shooting last Sunday targeted the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which was congregated at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Dr. John Cheng, a local sports medicine physician saved countless lives after he tackled the gunman, allowing other churchgoers to jump in and subdue him before further carnage could occur.

Reverend Albany Lee, the church pastor, called Cheng "a true disciple of Christ." 

"We hardly know him, but he choose to give his own life to the people surrounding him," Lee said. 

Cheng was only in attendance so he could bring his mother to church and an after service luncheon to honor their former pastor, Billy Chang, who had moved to Taiwan prior to the pandemic and had been unable to visit since.

In the week since, Orange County residents have gathered for memorials and inter-faith vigils to pay their respects for Cheng and the five other wounded individuals.

Sunday was different from those previous meetings, as members of both Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church and community members joined in solidarity.

"There's a sense of sorrow, sadness and a few of them have expressed anxiety that they are nervous right now," said Peggy Huang, a member of Geneva Presbyterian Church. "There will be a lot of time of prayer today and consoling each other."

Investigators say the alleged gunman, who mingled with the congregation on May 15 for nearly an hour before opening fire, was fueled by politically motivated hate of the Taiwanese community. 

The memorial for Dr. Cheng has continued to grow over the week, with dozens more community members stopping by to add flowers and candles for the man law enforcement has hailed as a hero. 

Bentley Fierro was one of many locals who paid his respects Sunday afternoon.

"We have to come to church," he said. "It's a safe place. A place of worship and show the people that we are united and strong."

The ambassador to Taiwan flew across the country from Washington D.C. to participate in Sunday's service. 

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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