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Doctor killed in Laguna Woods church shooting was a ‘hero’

The worshiper killed when a gunman opened fire at a church in Laguna Woods on Sunday was a sports doctor and martial arts master who was killed while trying to stop the gunfire, authorities said Monday .

Orange County Sheriff’s officials said when the suspect began shooting, Dr. John Cheng put himself in the line of fire and tried to prevent others from being shot.

According to the visiting pastor, Cheng, 52, from Laguna Niguel, was not a regular at the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Irvine, which meets on Sundays at the Presbyterian Church in Geneva, but brought his mother to a special event in honor of the longtime former pastor.

“Dr. Cheng is a hero in this incident, based on witness statements and corroborated by other means. Dr. Cheng is known to have charged the individual — the suspect — [and] attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to intercede afterwards,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said at a news conference.

“He sacrificed himself so others could live,” Orange County Dist. Atti. Added Todd Spitzer.

The violence occurred during a church luncheon honoring a pastor who had just returned from several years in Taiwan. After Cheng was shot, witnesses said the pastor hit the suspect with a chair as he stopped to reload his gun and other members of the congregation tackled him.

They tied him down with an extension cord, a decision officials say likely saved many more lives. The suspect had attempted to seal the doors to the church hall to prevent people from leaving.

“The heroism of these individuals in this room is unbelievable to all of us in law enforcement. That these civilians took it upon themselves to take him in to detain him to stop his movements. A person sacrificing his life. It’s literally, literally inspiring and amazing,” Spitzer said.

Cheng, who ran a sports medicine practice in Aliso Viejo, leaves behind a wife and two children.

“He is a beloved member of his community, he is known for his hard work, work ethic and sports medicine, and our thoughts and prayers are with him, his friends in the community for their loss, as well as the Presbyterian Church in Geneva,” Barnes said.

Louis M. Huang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, said his office has contacted family members of all of the shooting victims.

Four of the five victims, including Cheng, held Taiwanese nationality, Huang said. The fifth was born in the Philippines but spoke Taiwanese due to his heritage.

The injured were four men aged 66, 92, 82 and 75 and an 86-year-old woman. They have not yet been identified.

Of the four seriously injured people, two will likely be discharged from hospital within a day or two, Huang said. One may require a week’s hospitalization and the other likely needs surgery, he said.

Authorities said Monday that the suspect — identified as David Wenwei Chou, 68, of Las Vegas — appeared motivated by political hatred directed against the Taiwanese community, Orange County Sheriff’s officials said Monday. Chou was arrested on Sunday and is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Los Angeles Times

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