Authorities: Anti-Taiwanese hatred led to attack on church

LAGUNA WOODS, CA (Associated Press) – A Chinese-born gunman motivated by anti-Taiwan hatred shut down the doors of a California church and hid petrol bombs before shooting a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners, killing a man he handled, and possibly rescued, authorities said on Monday The dozens dead.

David Chu, 68, drove from Las Vegas to Orange County on Saturday and the next day attended a lunch hosted by the Presbyterian Church of Irvine, which worships at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in the Laguna Woods community. Authorities said at a press conference that although he did not know anyone there, he spent about an hour mingling with about 40 attendees and then carried out a plot.

He tied the doors and put strong glue in the keyholes. He had two 9mm pistols — bought legally years ago in Las Vegas — and three bags containing, among other things, four Molotov cocktails and additional ammunition. He shot and in the chaos that followed, Dr. Jun Cheng, 52, treated him, allowing other parishioners to subdue him and tie him up with extension cords.

Cheng died and five people were injured, the oldest of whom was 92. Sheriff Don Barnes described Ching’s heroism as a “meeting of good against evil” that may have saved “over a dozen lives”.

Cho was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and put on $1 million bail. He is expected to appear in state court on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf. Federal hate crimes are also being investigated.

Authorities said Cho was working as a security guard in Las Vegas.

There was no immediate information on why Chu chose to target the church in Laguna Woods, a picturesque coastal area populated mainly by retirees and located near a large gated community.

Barnes said the motive for the shooting was a complaint between the shooter, who said he was born in China and is a US citizen, and the Taiwanese community.

Barnes said Cho acted alone and was not a regular attendee.

“It is not believed to be associated with any specific church or religion, and there is no direct link to the church or any member of the church that we know exists,” Barnes said.

A former neighbor said Chu’s life fell apart after his wife left him. Palmor Orellana told The Associated Press that Chu was a nice guy who owned an apartment building in Las Vegas where he lived until February. Records showed that the four-unit property sold last October for just over $500,000.

Orellana said Chou’s wife used the money from the sale to move to Taiwan.

The neighbor said that before Orellana moved in about five years ago, Cho sustained head injuries and other serious injuries in an attack by a tenant. Recently, his mental health has deteriorated, and last summer a bullet was fired inside Cho’s apartment and the bullet entered Oriana’s apartment, although no one was injured, according to Oriana.

Police reports about the assault and shootings on Monday were not immediately available.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said that Chu’s family were apparently among the many forcibly deported from China to Taiwan sometime after 1948. Chu’s hatred toward the island, documented in handwritten notes found by authorities, appears to have begun When he felt he was not treated well during his stay there.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have peaked for decades, as Beijing escalates its military harassment by flying fighter planes toward the autonomous island. China has not ruled out a force to reunite with Taiwan, which was separated from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan’s top representative in the US, Bi Kim Hsiao, offered his condolences to the families on Twitter.

“I join the families of the victims and the Taiwanese American communities in their grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured survivors,” Hsiao wrote on Sunday.

The Chinese government “consistently condemns the violent incidents. We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the families of the victims and the injured,” Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Bingyu told the Associated Press via email.

In a California church, a shooting erupted after Jerry Chen had just walked into the church’s fellowship hall kitchen at about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Chen, 72, a senior member of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Irvine, peeked around the corner and saw others screaming, running and swaying under tables.

“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911.”

Samuel Njanga, a Geneva member and church official, said he started cleaning in the kitchen when he heard the gunshots. He and others crawled on their hands and knees to escape.

Among the gunshot wounds were an 86-year-old woman as well as four men aged 66, 75, 82 and 92, the sheriff’s department said. On Monday, authorities said two of the injured were in good condition and two in stable condition, and the condition of the fifth patient had not been determined.

Chen said a group of about 40 devotees gathered in the fellowship hall for lunch after morning mass to welcome their former pastor Billy Chang, a beloved and respected member of the community who served the church for 20 years. Zhang returned to Taiwan two years ago. Chen said this was the first time he had been back in the United States.

Everyone had just finished lunch and were taking pictures with Zhang when Chen went to the kitchen. Then he heard gunshots.

Barnes said Cheng, a sports medicine doctor whose wife and two children survived, accused the shooter and tried to disarm, allowing others to intervene. Zhang hit the gunman in the head with a chair before the other parishioners took control of him.

“I will tell you there was evil in that church,” Spitzer said, adding that Chu had an “absolute prejudice” against Taiwan and its people.

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man was shot and killed 10 people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. In a racial frenzy as the white gunman is said to have targeted a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood.

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This story has been corrected to show that Reverend Billy Chang has not retired.

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Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Bharat reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Stephanie Dazio and John Antzac in Los Angeles and Elaine Nickmayer in Washington contributed to this story. News researcher Rhonda Schaffner contributed from New York.

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The Associated Press’s religious coverage is supported by an Associated Press collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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