A man opened fire on a lunch reception at a Southern California church Sunday, killing one and injuring five others before he was overcome by parishioners. Four of the surviving victims are reported to be in critical condition.
The victims are described by authorities as “senior citizens,” and the ages of those hospitalized are listed as 66, 75, 82, 86, and 92 years. When police arrived they found the suspect, who apparently brought two handguns with him, hogtied with an extension cord and waiting for them.
The shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, happened early Sunday afternoon with 30 to 40 people at the reception. The luncheon was in honor of the former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation that meets in the church for its services.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department says most of the people attending the luncheon were of Taiwanese descent. It is not known if the alleged assailant has a connection to the congregation.
The suspect is identified as 68-year-old David Chou of Las Vegas, Nevada. He is said to be of Asian descent and authorities are investigating whether he targeted victims of Asian descent. They emphasize that the investigation is just starting.
Witnesses say Chou seemed friendly and claimed to have attended services there several times, though no one remembered him. He spoke to the churchgoers in Taiwanese before chaining the exits to prevent worshipers from leaving.
Chou was booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, according to the sheriff’s department.
A witness reports the pastor hit the gunman with a chair as he attempted to reload a gun, and other congregants then jumped in. Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock told a press conference that the church attendees showed “exceptional heroism and bravery” in taking down the suspect.
Otherwise, Hallock adds, it may have ended a lot worse.
The incident came just a day after another gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing 10. California Gov. Gavin Newsome’s office released a statement saying people should not need to fear “going to their place of worship.”