According to the prosecutor, the church gunman had a ‘diabolical plan’ to massacre


Laguna Woods ~ California
A photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday's shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, is displayed outside his office in Aliso Viejo, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The man accused of opening fire on a predominantly elderly Taiwanese church congregation in Southern California wanted to "execute in cold blood as many people in that room as possible," a prosecutor said Tuesday in announcing murder, attempted murder, and other charges for the shooting that resulted in one fatality and five injuries.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer described 68-year-old, David Wenwei Chou as a monster whose rampage was stopped by the brave actions of a doctor who charged at him, a pastor who beat Chou with a chair, and several parishioners who tied him up until police came.

Spitzer stated, "This monster devised a diabolical plan to lock the church doors with his victims inside so he could slaughter what he believed to be innocent lambs." "What he didn't realize, however, was that the parishioners at the church that day were lions, and they fought back against the evil that attempted to infiltrate their house of worship."

Spitzer stated that Chou was motivated by his hatred for Taiwan, where he was born after his family was expelled from mainland China after the 1949 civil war won by the Communists. According to officials, he chose the church randomly and did not know anyone there.

He left his residence in Las Vegas on Saturday and drove to the church the following day. Chou spent approximately an hour mingling with dozens of members of the congregation at a luncheon, which Spitzer said was Chou's way of gaining their trust so they wouldn't notice when he began carrying out his plot – chaining closed doors, super gluing locks, and placing incendiary devices in multiple locations.

Spitzer stated that Chou's actions amounted to "lying in wait," a legal term that can result in harsher punishment if he is convicted.

"This case involves a person hiding in plain sight," he explained.

Spitzer stated that if Chou is found guilty and the jury determines the enhancements to be accurate, he would face either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Tuesday's arraignment of Chou was continued to June 10, and he did not make a plea at his initial court appearance. He will remain detained without bail. Tania Vallejo, his public defender, did not immediately respond to an email demanding a comment.

Chou, a U.S. citizen who worked as a security guard for years, was allegedly motivated by anti-Taiwanese sentiments evidenced in handwritten notes discovered by officials. Spitzer stated that he is considering filing charges for a hate crime but wants more time to investigate.

"While there is currently solid evidence that this was motivated by hatred, we want to ensure that we have gathered all the evidence that confirms this theory," he said. Federal officials are undertaking their inquiry into hate crimes.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are at their most significant level in decades, with Beijing increasing its military harassment of the self-governing island by flying fighter jets toward it. China has not excluded the use of force to reunite Taiwan.

According to Taiwanese media, Chou had ties to a Las Vegas organization opposed to Taiwan's independence from China.

Balmore Orellana, a former Las Vegas neighbor, stated that Chou had been a kind landlord until his wife left him and fled to Taiwan last year. Spitzer noted that the wife of the suspect is terminally ill.

In February, Chou moved into a four-bedroom home. Jordin Davis, his roommate, described him as a gentle, quiet man who frequently shared his food. Davis stated that Chou described himself as a Christian and affixed a black tape cross to the top of his vehicle, but he never brought up his religious beliefs.

Aside from casual talk and discussions on Davis' dog Zeus, the two had few meaningful exchanges. Davis stated that Chou would "return home, go to sleep, take a shower, and go to work again and again."

Davis stated that Chou only mentioned Taiwan once during a chat less than two weeks earlier. Chou noted that he believed the Taiwanese administration was corrupt and disapproved of the islanders' support for the regime.

Davis stated, "He gave the impression that he was essentially a political refugee."

Davis stated that authorities conducted a home search on Monday and seized a laptop. According to officials, electronic data are being investigated as part of the inquiry.

Chou is suspected of shooting at parishioners during a Sunday brunch for Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church members who worship at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods.

According to officials, he had two 9-millimeter handguns legally purchased in Las Vegas years prior and three bags carrying four Molotov cocktail-style incendiary devices and additional ammo. According to the authorities, in the ensuing confusion, 52-year-old Dr. John Cheng tackled him, allowing other parishioners to overpower him and tie him up.

According to the sheriff's office, Cheng died, and five people were injured, including an 86-year-old woman and four males aged 66 to 92. According to the church's former pastor, Billy Chang, some have been discharged from the hospital, while others are in stable condition.

Chang, who had served the church for 20 years, was honored with a luncheon following the morning service. Chang returned to Taiwan two years ago, which was his first visit.

Chou entered the church sanctuary during services, identified himself as "Da-Wei Chou" to the receptionist, and sat in the back reading a Chinese-language newspaper, according to a church statement released Tuesday.

According to the statement, he was wearing a black shirt with a white word that some believed read "Security."

According to the church, you reportedly did not attend the adult Sunday school class that followed the service, but he did attend the lunch; after the meal, some parishioners took photographs with Chang and began to leave. According to the church statement, they observed Chou beginning to lock the doors with iron chains, but he permitted them to go.

"When asked about his behavior, he declined to respond. They believed he was a security guard, according to the statement.

According to the statement, one man forgot some items inside the church and wanted to return them, but Chou denied him access to the hall, and another church member stated he saw Chou nailing two exit doors shut.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Chang stated that he initially believed Chou was playing a joke with a toy gun when he opened fire. When Chang realized it was actual gunfire, he flung a chair at Chou, causing him to fall to the ground. Chang charged Chou while three other congregants held him down and bound him.

Chang stated, "It wasn't until then that I noticed Dr. Cheng was lying facedown to my front right with three bloody bullet wounds and was immobile."

According to the authorities, Cheng charged Chou and stopped the gunfire. On Monday, sheriff Don Barnes referred to Cheng's heroism as "a confrontation between good and evil" that likely saved "several dozens" of lives.

Cheng, a sports medicine practitioner, had just lost his father and brought his mother to the luncheon. He was well-known in the neighborhood, and his patients liked him.

Publish : 2022-05-18 07:35:00

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