Laguna Woods church shooter was 'politically motivated'; fallen victim’s actions applauded

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. (KNX) — Sunday’s shooting inside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods was a politically motivated hate incident, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said during a press conference on Monday.

Sheriff Barnes said the suspect, 68-year-old David Chou, had an ‘individual grievance’ with the Taiwanese community, and it’s believed Chou “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.” Sheriff Barnes added that officers found notes in Chou’s car that revealed his disdain for the Taiwanese community.

At the time of the shooting, members of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church were hosting a luncheon to celebrate a pastor who returned from a mission trip in Taiwan.

Chou, who officials said did not have any ties with the church, attended the luncheon and had been asked by other attendees as to why he was there.

Officials also noted Chou lived in the U.S. for decades after emigrating from China and resided in Las Vegas. He also has a wife who is currently in Taiwan. In addition, officials said Chou held a guard license in Nevada and had many security jobs in Las Vegas.

Authorities obtained a search warrant for his car and his residence in Las Vegas, with help from the Las Vegas Police Department.

Officials also said they recovered two semi-automatic handguns and that Chou had legally purchased them in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2017.

Barnes said Chou was methodical and had formulated a strategy in the shooting, adding that multiple entrances and locations were shut. Barnes also noted that police found two bags containing Molotov cocktail-like devices and two bags of additional magazine rounds hidden inside the banquet hall.

Kristi Johnson, an assistant director with the FBI Los Angeles, said the FBI had opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting.

Chou is expected to appear Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday. He currently remains in jail.

 “He sacrificed himself so that others could live.”

During Monday’s presser, officials applauded the actions of Dr. John Cheng, 52, who died during Sunday’s shooting.

His picture was placed beside the podium throughout the entire press conference.

Dr. Cheng, a physician at South Bay Medical Group in Aliso Viejo, charged at Chou and attempted to disarm him. It was while Dr. Cheng tackled the suspect that he was shot and killed.

"Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there would be additional victims in this crime," Barnes noted.

“He sacrificed himself so that others could live,” D.A. Spitzer remarked. “That irony in a church is not lost on me.”

In addition to Dr. Cheng, officials applauded the actions of other congregants who went after the suspect and eventually hogtied him. The church’s pastor, Billy Chang, even threw a chair at the shooter.

“But I will tell you that that church, the congregants, and obviously the decedent, Dr. Cheng, and the others who were shot and all the other congregants engaged in the most heroic activity one could ever imagine,” Spitzer said.

Five additional people were shot in the incident and taken to the hospital. The victims’ ages ranged from 66 years old to 92 years old. Monday, two of those victims reportedly remained in good condition. Two were still listed in stable condition, and one of the victims’ condition is unknown.

Follow KNX News 97.1 FM
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok