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Hate against Taiwanese led to California church attack: Authorities

Laguna Woods (US), May 17

A Chinese-born gunman motivated by hatred against Taiwan chained shut the doors of a California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners, killing a man who tackled him, possibly saving dozens of lives, authorities said on Monday.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas drove to Orange County on Saturday and the next day attended a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods. Though he knew no one there, he spent about an hour mingling with about 40 attendees and then executed his plot, authorities said at a news conference.

He chained the doors and put super glue in the keyholes. He had two 9mm handguns – legally purchased years ago in Las Vegas – and three bags, containing among other things four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and extra ammunition. He opened fire and in the ensuing chaos John Cheng, 52, tackled him, allowing other parishioners to subdue him and tie him up with extension cords.

Cheng died and five people were wounded, the oldest 92.

Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng’s heroism “a meeting of good versus evil” that probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people.”

Chou was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and jailed on USD 1 million bail. He was expected to appear in state court on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

Chou had worked as a security guard in Las Vegas, authorities said.

Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, who he said was born in China and is a US citizen, and the Taiwanese community. Barnes said Chou acted alone and was not a regular attendee of the church..

“He is not believed to be associated with any specific church or any religion, and there’s no direct connection to the church or any member of the church that we’re aware of,” Barnes said.

Chou’s hatred towards the island, documented in hand-written notes that authorities found, seems like it began when he felt he wasn’t treated well while living there.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are at the highest in decades, with Beijing stepping up its military harassment by flying fighter jets toward the self-governing island. China has not ruled out force to reunify with Taiwan, which split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

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