Authorities now say the shooter who killed one and severely wounded several others in a California church Sunday is a Chinese-born immigrant fueled by hatred for Taiwan.
Arrested and charged is 68-year-old David Wenwei Chou of Las Vegas. Two of the victims are hospitalized in good condition and two others in stable condition. The wounded range in age from 66 to 92.
The FBI opened a federal hate crimes investigation after notes in the alleged assailant’s car were found. These state that he doesn’t believe that Taiwan should be independent of China, a belief China has increasingly proclaimed.
There are conflicting reports as to Chou’s connections with both countries. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the suspect was born in China, but a Taiwanese organization based in Los Angeles asserts he was born in Taiwan and did compulsory military service there.
Police say Chou drove from Las Vegas to Orange County on Saturday and then attended a lunch held the next day at the Geneva Presbyterian Church. A Taiwanese group holds services in the building and was honoring a previous pastor with a luncheon.
Chou mingled with about 40 attendees for roughly an hour before, according to authorities, he chained the doors and filled the keyholes with super glue. He brought three bags with him with four Molotov-cocktail type devices, a pair of 9mm handguns and extra ammunition.
ATF officials say the guns were legally purchased by Chou.
Dr. John Cheng, 52, is hailed as a hero for tackling the alleged assailant after the shooting began. Cheng was fatally shot, and the Orange County district attorney’s office says he sacrificed himself and likely saved the lives of many of the parishioners. Dr. Cheng was married with two children.
After the gunman was tackled, the former pastor who was being honored, Billy Chang, hit him with a chair. Other congregants joined in and used an extension cord to hogtie him until police arrived.
Chou was booked on one count of felony murder, five felony counts of attempted murder, special circumstances of “lying in wait,” and four counts of unlawful possession of explosives. The shooting came just one day after the killing of 10 in another apparently hate-fueled attack in Buffalo.