Jazz pointed out this morning that the motive for the church shooting that happened in Orange County, CA over the weekend was still unknown. But this afternoon Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes gave a briefing to the media in which he clarified that the gunman in this case had a political motive. The shooter was a Chinese man who specifically targeted a Taiwanese congregation because of his anger at Taiwanese people.
David Chou, a 68-year-old man from Las Vegas, drove to Orange County on Saturday and arrived at the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church Sunday after services had ended. Church members, most of whom are retired professionals over the age of 60, were holding a lunch banquet with about 40-50 people present. Chou chained the doors and put superglue in the locks to prevent people from escaping. He then entered the room and started shooting.
A heroic parishioner, Dr. John Cheng, 52, interceded to stop the shooting but lost his life in the process. “I want to pause and just tell you that Dr. Cheng is a hero,” Sheriff Barnes said. He added, “Dr. Cheng charged the individual, the suspect, attempted to disarm him which allowed other parishioners to the intercede, taking the suspect into custody.” Dr. Cheng was hit by gunshots and died at the scene. Another pastor hit the shooter over the head with a chair at which point he was bound with electrical cords until police arrived. Here’s a photo of Dr. Cheng.
#New The person killed during shooting inside Taiwanese church lunch banquet yesterday is Dr. John Cheng of Laguna Niguel. He leaves behind a wife, two children. The @OCSheriff says Dr. Cheng “took heroic actions that day,” charged the suspect, tried to take gun away @NBCLA pic.twitter.com/KmFJfWwhm4
— Anoushah Rasta (@Anoushah_Rasta) May 16, 2022
Police found that the shooter had placed several bags containing additional ammunition and Molotov cocktails around the room. Sheriff Barnes said at least twice during his statement that had the shooter not been incapacitated by the actions of Dr. Cheng and others, the outcome of the shooting would certainly have been much worse. This suspect was there to kill as many Taiwanese people as possible.
As for the motive, search warrants were executed for the shooter’s apartment and his car. “Based on preliminary information in the investigation, it is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan,” Barnes said. Barnes later explained that notes found in his car pointed toward his motive.
Orange County DA Todd Spitzer said that the suspect would be charged tomorrow with murder with special circumstances of lying in wait. He will also be charged with five counts of attempted murder and four counts of unlawful possession of explosives (one for each Molotov). All of that means David Chou is eligible for either life without the possibility of parole or the death sentence. DA Spitzer said he would eventually make up his mind which was appropriate.
As for hate crimes, Spitzer said there was plenty of initial evidence that this crime was motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. However, he said he was waiting on all the evidence to ensure he could prove that in court. He also noted that under the circumstances a hate crime enhancement wouldn’t add anything to life without parole or the death penalty.
Here’s part of the press conference in which DA Spitzer described the crime scene. “I will tell you that evil was in that church yesterday,” he said.