2022 Laguna Woods shooting

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2022 Laguna Woods shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
Location24301 El Toro Road, Laguna Woods, Orange County, California, United States
Coordinates33°36′35″N 117°44′00″W / 33.60964°N 117.73338°W / 33.60964; -117.73338Coordinates: 33°36′35″N 117°44′00″W / 33.60964°N 117.73338°W / 33.60964; -117.73338
DateMay 15, 2022 (2022-05-15)
c. 1:26 p.m. (PDT)
Attack type
Mass shooting
WeaponsTwo handguns
Deaths1
Injured5
MotiveAnti-Taiwanese sentiment (suspected)
AccusedDavid Chou
Charges
*Hate crime enhancement

The Laguna Woods shooting was a mass shooting that occurred on May 15, 2022, at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, United States. The church in Orange County was hosting a congregation of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for Sunday services. The shooter killed one person and wounded five others.[1][2] A suspect, 68-year-old David Chou of Las Vegas, was arrested at the scene. Authorities allege that the crime was committed out of a political hatred of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people.[3][4] Chou has been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, all with hate crime enhancements, and four counts of possessing an explosive device.[5][6]

Shooting[edit]

The shooter attacked during a luncheon after the church service.[7] There were between 30 and 40 people inside the church at the time.[8]

At around 10:10 a.m. local time, a man entered the sanctuary. The receptionist, who did not recognize him, welcomed him and asked him to fill out a form with his personal details. He refused, claiming to have completed the form in the past.[9] Witnesses said he mingled with other attendees[10] and spoke to them in Taiwanese Hokkien.[11] Pastor Billy Chang said the man sat in the back of the sanctuary and was reading a newspaper throughout the entire sermon.[7]

After the service, the church goers gathered in a separate hall for a luncheon in Chang's honor, and some guests who left early saw the shooter attempting to lock the doors with chains. While some asked what he was doing, others assumed he was a security officer.[7][12] The shooter shot first into the ceiling, with many assuming it was a balloon popping instead of gunfire. Some attendees dropped to the floor and crawled under tables before, an attendee, John Cheng, charged the shooter and tried to disarm him but was in turn shot and killed.[13][7] As the shooter attempted to reload his weapon, Chang hit the shooter on the head with a chair.[12][14] Following which, several attendees tackled him and then hogtied him with an extension cord and confiscated two handguns, which were recovered by police.[14][15][16] After he complained, those holding the shooter down eased up on the force of restraint to allow him to breathe.[17]

Police were alerted at about 1:26 p.m.[15] The doors were chained shut and their locks glued. Four items similar to Molotov cocktails were stored inside.[3]

Victims[edit]

The dead victim, 52-year-old John Cheng (Chinese: 鄭達志; pinyin: Zhèng Dázhì),[18] was a sports medicine physician based in Laguna Niguel.[13] He was married with a son and a daughter.[19] Five other victims, all of Taiwanese descent and aged between 66 and 92, were also shot but survived their injuries.[4] Four of them are male and one is an 86-year-old female.[20]

Investigation[edit]

Investigators from Orange County’s Sheriff and District Attorney’s office and the FBI described the shooting as one that was motivated by hatred against Taiwan and Taiwanese people.[21][11][22][23] Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said that handwritten notes recovered from a vehicle that allegedly belonged to Chou recorded his motives for perpetrating the mass shooting; these included his belief that Taiwan should not be independent from China and his "hatred for the Taiwanese people", which, Barnes surmised, stemmed from his alienation from Taiwanese society when he lived in Taiwan.[24][25][26]

Accused[edit]

David Wenwei Chou was born in 1953[27] in Taiwan as a second-generation waishengren and raised in a military dependents' village[28][29] near Taichung alongside four siblings.[30] He graduated from the Taichung First Senior High School in 1971[24] and completed a master's degree in the U.S. during the 1990s.[29] In 1994, he was a lecturer at the National Pingtung Institute of Commerce for one year.[31] According to reports, Chou moved to Las Vegas in 2009 where he worked as a landlord and a security guard.[32]

Chou had expressed views against the Taiwanese and American governments. In an interview with the Associated Press, a roommate of Chou recalled a conversation they had two weeks prior to the shooting in which Chou described the Taiwanese government as corrupt, and disliked Taiwanese who supported it.[33][34] Other acquaintances who knew Chou through a Taiwanese association in Las Vegas recalled his dissatisfaction with the U.S. government which stemmed from his encounter with law enforcement a decade earlier in which he felt misunderstood by the police after being attacked and sustaining serious injuries by tenants.[35]

In addition Chou held anti Taiwanese independence views and had links to the pro-unification movement. The pro unification newspaper World Journal said they had received a manifesto written and sent to them by Chou entitled Diary of the Independence-Slaying Angel (滅獨天使日記) one day after shooting, which they decided against publishing and turned over to the police.[36][37] In 2019 Chou attended the founding ceremony of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for China's Peaceful Unification where he held up a banner which called for the “eradication of pro independence demons.”[38][39][40][32][41]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Chou first appeared in court on May 17, while being held on $1 million bond.[10][9]

Prosecutors initially charged Chou with one count of murder, five counts of premeditated attempted murder, four counts of possession of an explosive device, and enhancement charges of lying in wait and personal discharge of a firearm causing death.[42] On June 17 prosecutors added hate crime enhancements to the murder and attempted murder charges.[43][6] If convicted, Chou faces either the death penalty or life imprisonment.[10][9]

Reactions[edit]

Sheriff Barnes commended Cheng as a heroic figure who prevented the shooter from hurting more people.[4] U.S. Representative Katie Porter, whose district includes Laguna Woods, referred to an earlier shooting in Buffalo, New York and said, "This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families."[44]

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen condemned the shooting, and offered condolences to the victims.[45] She asked for the political representatives in the US to fly to California to provide assistance. Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's de facto ambassador, posted on Twitter that she was "shocked and saddened by the fatal shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in California", and she expressed she would mourn together with the Taiwanese-American community and families of the victims.[46] The Taiwanese Kuomintang issued a statement condemning the shooting without commenting on Chou's political positions.[24]

Some have attributed the shooting to Beijing’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric on the issue of cross strait unification.[24][47][48] In the wake of the shooting, 60 civic groups called for countries around the world to designate the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification as a terrorist organization.[49]

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China's ministry of foreign affairs, said "[w]e hope the US government can take action against its increasingly severe gun violence problem".[24] Chinese Embassy in Washington spokesperson Liu Pengyu said: "We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured."[12]

On May 21, local elected officials and religious leaders gathered at the church where the shooting occurred to memorialize and honor the victims of the shooting. A moment of silence was held for the deceased victim, John Cheng. Representative Young Kim stated that there was no place in the community and society for any type of hate and that the community needed to stand together.[50]

In June, Representatives Katie Porter and Michelle Steel proposed a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to John Cheng.[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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