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1 dead, 4 wounded after "politically-motivated" shooting inside Orange County church, police say

1 killed, 4 wounded in California church shooting
1 killed, 4 wounded in California church shooting 00:25

At least one person is dead and four people are wounded after a shooting inside a church in Orange County, California in what authorities said Monday was a "politically-motivated hate incident." A suspect is in custody, police said, and two handguns were recovered from the scene. 

On Monday, the Orange County Sheriff's office identified the suspect as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas. He has been booked on one felony count of murder and five felony counts of attempted murder, for allegedly entering the Geneva Presbyterian Church and lying in wait to open fire. 

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that the shooting appeared to be an isolated incident but evidence shows the suspect was driven by a grievance between himself and the "Taiwanese community at large." In addition to the recovered firearms, officials also found bags full additional ammunition and four molotov cocktail-like incendiary devices. 

The shooting was a "politically-motivated hate incident," Barnes revealed Monday.   

Authorities also identified the sole churchgoer killed as Dr. John Cheng, a sports medicine doctor who "took heroic action" and charged the gunman. While Cheng rushed the suspect, Barnes  said that his actions allowed the other churchgoers, who ranged between 66 and 90 years old, to subdue the gunman, undoubtedly saving more lives. 

The shooting "could have been much, much worse," Barnes said Monday. 

Cheng leaves behind a wife and two children, officials said. Two additional victims have begun recovering and are now listed in good condition. Two remain in stable condition and one's condition is still unknown. 

According to the Associated Press, Chou is being held on $1 million bail. The sheriff's office said Monday that Chou made several small statements after he was taken into custody before asking for a lawyer. 

Officials said that both of the handguns recovered were purchased by Chou legally in 2015 and 2017. The Vegas resident is an American citizen, who immigrated from China and lived in several states before working security jobs in Las Vegas. He has one family member living in the U.S. but was renting a room in Las Vegas alone. His wife and child do not reside in the country, according to the sheriff's office. 

The Orange County Sheriff's Office received a call of gunfire at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods shortly before 1:30 p.m. PT. Police said it appeared to be a lunch banquet following the morning service, with about 30 to 40 people in attendance. The reception was honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation that nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, according to police. 

Police said in a press conference Sunday afternoon that church-goers detained the suspect after he opened fire and hog-tied him with extension cords, taking at least two weapons. Both weapons were handguns, and authorities said they were commercially-made weapons. 

"That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism, heroism and bravery in interfering or intervening to stop the suspect," said Undersheriff Jeff Hallock. "They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities."

California Church Shooting
Crime scene tape is stretched across an area at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., Sunday, May 15, 2022, after a fatal shooting. Damian Dovarganes / AP

The suspect was not injured during the incident. The FBI is currently assisting in the investigation and a spokesperson said Monday the local office has opened a investigation into whether the incident could be classified as a federal hate crime. 

Authorities said Monday they have not found a link between Chou and the specific Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation. He drove to Orange County on Saturday and came to the church after the morning service, where he allegedly secured the church doors with chains and disabled multiple door locks with superglue. 

According to CBS Los Angeles, Laguna Woods is a community comprised primarily of persons considered to be senior citizens, with 82% of residents reportedly over the age of 65, as detailed by the United States Census Bureau.  

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