Fatal OC church shooting was a ‘politically motivated hate incident’, authorities say

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) — A shooting at an Orange County church that left one dead and five others injured was a “politically motivated hate incident,” authorities said Monday.

The suspect, identified as David Chou, of Las Vegas, was convicted of one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. He is being held on $1 million bail. The Orange County district attorney’s office is expected to formally charge him Monday.

The shooting happened just before 1:30 p.m. Sunday inside the Geneva Presbyterian Church on El Toro Road in Laguna Woods. At a press conference, Sheriff Donald Barnes said Chou acted alone and was not a regular church attendee.

Barnes added that the 68-year-old, a US citizen from China, was driven by anger over political tensions between China and Taiwan. This anger prompted him to travel to Southern California from Las Vegas, where he lives alone and works in security.

Authorities said Chou’s actions were stopped by a group of worshipers shortly after he opened fire, hitting a total of six people, including one fatally.

The deceased, identified as John Cheng, 52, of Laguna Niguel, is credited with saving lives. Barnes said he charged at the suspect and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene and subdue Chou.

Cheng was shot and killed in the process, and authorities believe more people could have been shot had he not acted.

The other injured, four men and a woman, were identified as being between 66 and 92 years old. All were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Barnes said the suspect secured the doors and tried to stick the locks on so the victims couldn’t leave. The sheriff added that he strategically placed two bags inside the church – one contained Molotov cocktails and the other magazines and extra ammunition. At least two weapons were taken from the suspect by parishioners, officials said.

Barnes went on to condemn hate crimes.

“In this county, when these things happen, we stand united, shoulder to shoulder, lifting each other up and with one unified voice (say), there’s no room for hate in this county and we are not going to tolerate it,” he said.

The FBI has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting.

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