During a lunch reception at a Southern California church, a man opened fire, killing one person and injuring five others before a pastor hit the gunman on the head with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords.
Jerry Chen had just entered the fellowship hall’s kitchen around 1:30 p.m. Sunday when he heard the gunshots.
Chen, 72, an Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church member who worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, peered around the corner and saw others screaming, running, and ducking under tables.
The shooting ended after the gunman killed one man and injured five elderly people before worshippers hog-tied his legs with an electrical cord until deputies arrived, according to officials. Four of the five people injured were critically injured by gunshots; their conditions were not immediately available Monday morning.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, has been arrested on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. According to jail records, Chou is being held on $1 million bail. It’s unclear whether he has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.
The church was cordoned off with yellow police tape on Monday, and several flower bouquets were left outside the church grounds.
When he called 911 from the church parking lot on Sunday afternoon, Chen said he was in such shock that he couldn’t tell the operator where he was.
Chen stated that after a morning service, a group of about 40 congregants gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang, a beloved and respected community member who had served the church for 20 years. Chang returned to Taiwan two years ago. Chen stated that this was his first trip back to the United States.
That’s when he heard the gunshots and fled.
Chen later stated that he learned the details of what happened inside from others who came out. According to Chen, when the gunman stopped to reload, Chang hit him on the head with a chair while others rushed to grab his gun. Chen stated that they then subdued him and tied him up. Following the racist rampage in Buffalo, where a white gunman allegedly targeted a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood, fear spread that the Taiwanese congregation had also been the target of a hate crime.
However, when the shooter was identified as an Asian man, new questions arose as the investigation into the shooting and the gunman’s motivation continues.
According to Hallock, the case is still in its early stages. He stated that many questions remain unanswered, including whether the assailant attended the church service, if he was known to church members, and how many shots were fired.
Laguna Woods began as a senior living community and grew into a city. More than 80% of the 18,000-person city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles are over the age of 65. The shooting occurred near a number of houses of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, as well as a Jewish synagogue.
According to the sheriff’s department, four Asian men aged 66, 75, 82, and 92, as well as an 86-year-old Asian woman, were shot.
Taiwan’s democratically elected government has long taken a hands-off approach to religion on the island, where the majority of people practice Buddhism or traditional religions.
The deadliest shooting inside a church in the United States occurred in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017. During a Sunday service at First Baptist Church, a gunman opened fire, killing more than two dozen people.
In 2015, Dylann Roof fired dozens of bullets during the closing prayer of a 2015 Bible study session at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. Nine members of the Black congregation were killed in the racist violence and Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. His appeal remains before the Supreme Court.