The suspected gunman who opened fire at a church in Orange County, California on Sunday – killing one person and injuring five others – is a Chinese-American man who allegedly targeted Taiwanese worshipers in a ” politically motivated hatred,” according to the country’s Orange Sheriff.
The suspect, David Chou, 68, was a Chinese immigrant and U.S. citizen who “specifically targeted the Taiwanese community” when he traveled from Las Vegas to the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and shot Taiwanese Presbyterian worshipers during a luncheon, Sheriff Don Barnes said at a press conference Monday.
“Based on the information we gathered, this was a politically motivated hate incident,” Barnes said, adding that authorities believe the suspect was “upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan. and targeted parishioners based on their nationality.
About 50 members of the Taiwan Presbyterian Church were having lunch on Sunday when the suspect arrived, secured the church doors with chains, stuck the locks and began shooting at parishioners.
He killed Dr. John Cheng, 52, who leaves behind a wife and two children, according to the sheriff’s office. The five injured were between 66 and 92 years old.
Barnes said Cheng was a “hero” who charged the shooter before he was shot. Others threw a chair at the shooter, then tied his legs with extenders until law enforcement arrives. Deputies arrived within minutes and took the suspect into custody, the sheriff said.
The suspect was booked for one count of murder and five of attempted murder.
Law enforcement recovered two handguns from the scene and found several bags of ammunition, along with four Molotov cocktail-type devices that the suspect placed inside the church.
The suspect had no known connection to the church and had lived in the United States for years, most recently working as a security guard in Las Vegas.
The FBI has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooter, a Field Office spokesperson said at Monday’s news conference.
“There is no place for hatred in this country anymore, whether it’s racial, religious or national origin hatred,” Barnes said Monday. “It’s a manifestation of the ugliest part of our humanity that exists in our country today.”