A man was killed and five others injured when a gunman opened fire at a church in Laguna Woods on Sunday afternoon.
The shooting occurred at the Geneva Presbyterian Church, located in the 24000 block of El Toro Road, at around 1:25 p.m.
By the time Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, the suspect, later identified as 68-year-old David Chou of Las Vegas, was tied up with an extension cord by worshippers. Congregants had also confiscated at least two weapons, the sheriff’s department said.
Between 30 and 40 members of the Taiwan Presbyterian Church in Irvine, which holds a 10 a.m. service at the venue every Sunday, were inside the church at the time of the shooting. Orange County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Hallock said the shooting took place at a banquet after a morning church service.
“We believe a group of worshipers arrested him and tied his legs with an extension cord and confiscated at least two guns,” Hallock said. “He was arrested when deputies arrived. This group of worshipers displayed exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to arrest the suspect. They undoubtedly avoided further injury and death.”
Hallock said a large number of people gathered at the church would be of Taiwanese descent.
A gunshot victim died at the scene. His name was not immediately released.
The five injured victims, four men and one woman, were rushed to local hospitals, four in critical condition and one with minor injuries. They were between the ages of 66 and 92, the sheriff’s department said.
Two of the victims were transported to Orange County Global Medical Center, two to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and one was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Laguna Woods is a mostly elderly community, with 82% of residents believed to be over the age of 65, according to US Census Bureau figures.
It was unclear if the suspect was attending the service before the shooting began. He was sentenced on one count of suspected murder and five counts of suspected attempted murder, the sheriff’s department reported Monday.
“At this time, we don’t know what the suspect’s motive may be, if he had an intended target, or if this was even a hate-related incident,” Hallock continued.
Sky9 footage showed authorities registering a single vehicle with Nevada license plates in the church parking lot.
Stephen Galloway, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, noted that the two firearms contained serial numbers and were not considered “ghost weapons”. .
The ATF was conducting an “emergency search of recovered firearms,” Galloway said.
Kristi Johnson, deputy director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles branch, said investigators were working “very hard to determine motive.”
She added that linguists were brought in to work with worshipers throughout the investigation.
Bomb-sniffing K9s swept the church premises and found no explosive devices.
El Toro Road was closed between Calle Sonora and Canyon Wren for several hours, but has since reopened.
As members of the communityTo honor the victims of the tragic incident, local law enforcement and politicians offered additional support to residents, including mental health resources.
“Today is a very gloomy day for the residents of Laguna Woods and Orange County,” Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy – just one day after the tragic and heinous actions that led to the senseless deaths of Americans in the Tops Friendly Markets of Buffalo, New York. people slaughtered in their place of worship.”
“To the faithful of the church affected by the violence that took place here today: we are here for you and we will ask you for justice,” added Bartlett. “To the perpetrator of such heinous acts, our county will strive to ensure justice for the victims.”
Laguna Woods Mayor Carol Moore thanked the “awesome” members of the church who “were wise enough to step up and put themselves in harm’s way to save others.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom took to Twitter after the shooting.
“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement,” Newsom wrote. “No one should be afraid to come to their place of worship. Our hearts go out to the victims, the community and all those affected by this tragic event.”
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) also released a statement that read:
“A church shooting in Laguna Woods left several people injured and one dead. This is shocking and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo. This shouldn’t be our new normal. I I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”
A “Call to Prayer” statement was released by Rectory Co-Director for Vision Tom Cramer:
“Los Ranchos Presbytery is deeply saddened by a fatal shooting that occurred during a luncheon reception honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation who nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Early reports indicate that one person was killed and several others Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting.In your mercy, O Lord, we pray.
State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) also released a statement Sunday night via a Twitter feed.
“I would like to extend my thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and the entire town of Laguna Woods. Home to a close-knit community of mostly retirees, it is almost unthinkable that one of the safest places in the country would be struck by the specter of gun violence,” he said in part. “We should refuse to accept these tragedies as the new norm in our schools, places of worship, or anywhere.”
U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who commented on gun control following areleased another statement on Sunday:
“It is horrific to mourn yet another tragic shooting in just 72 hours – another weekend in America defined by senseless violence,” Schiff wrote. “I will never accept this bloodshed as inevitable. It can be stopped. But as we have seen over the past few days, months and years, unless we act immediately on gun safety measures on fire, history will repeat itself. Over and over. Enough is enough. We must act.