Laguna Woods church shooter attacked parishioners over China, Taiwan tensions, OC Sheriff says

Posted 38 days ago


Sometime after the prayer service ended and before the luncheon began on Sunday, May 15, authorities believe David Wenwei Chou entered the dining hall at a Laguna Woods church carrying a life-long hatred of Taiwanese people and enough weaponry to kill dozens.

Chou allegedly used padlocks, Super Glu and nails to seal most of the dining hall doors. He also dropped two bags – one carrying magazines of ammunition and another carrying four devices described as Molotov cocktails – behind a black curtain, authorities said.

And at some point in the day, witnesses and authorities add, Chou did something else: He mingled with the people he would soon try to kill.

Later, as the lunch was ending, authorities say Chou, 68, used a semi-automatic pistol to shoot and kill one man and injure four others.

They are describing Chou’s alleged act as a potential hate crime, among other things. Authorities found notes in his car suggesting long-term hatred of Taiwanese people and their government.

They also are describing the man Chou allegedly killed, Dr. John Cheng, of Laguna Niguel, as a hero.

“Dr. Cheng charged the suspect and attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to intercede, taking the suspect into custody,” Barnes said.

“Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there would have been numerous other additional victims.”

A photo of the lunchroom taken during the incident, shared with the Register, shows four men and one woman kneeling on a man who appears to be Chou.

Nearby is the body of another man, lying face down, blood pooling on his back.

Pastor Billy Chang, a former leader of the congregation who spent two years in Taiwan and was on hand Sunday to give a guest sermon and enjoy a lunch in his honor, described the hours leading up to that photo as routine – except for the appearance of Chou.

Chang said he first saw Chou during the morning service, around 10:10 a.m., when about 150 people were inside Geneva Presbyterian Church, the house of worship used since 2009 by the congregation of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian.

“He was wearing a black shirt with a word written on it in white,” Chang said. “Some believe the word on his shirt was ‘Security.’”

A receptionist welcomed Chou to the church and, speaking Taiwanese, asked him to fill out a form providing his personal information, Chang said.

But Chou refused, Chang added, claiming he had attended services at the church twice previously and had already filled out the form.

After that, Chang said, Chou sat in the back of the sanctuary reading a Chinese-language newspaper provided by the church.

Chou sat through the entire service, which ended at around 11:20 a.m., Chang said. Parishioners then saw Chou enter a small back office, where he looked around before leaving the building.

But Chou returned around 12:30 p.m., as the congregation was moving over to the church’s Simpson Hall for the luncheon honoring Chang.

About 140 members went to the lunch to eat and take photos with the pastor. Around 1:20 p.m., some members who were leaving told Chang they saw Chou “applying iron chains” to the doors to secure them.

Though Chou allowed parishioners to exit, he refused to answer when they asked what he was doing, Chang said.

At around that time, a parishioner tried to re-enter, saying he’d left something behind, but Chou blocked him. Then another church member saw Chou beginning to hammer nails into two exit doors.

That’s when Chou pulled out a gun – which authorities describe as a 9-mi... (Read more)