California church shooting suspect was likely motivated by his 'hatred of the Taiwanese people,' prompted by political tensions between China and Taiwan, OC sheriff says

·3 min read
The Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, after a shooting took place on May 15, 2022.
The Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, after a shooting took place on May 15, 2022.Hannah Getahun for Insider
  • Authorities in Orange County, California said the Geneva Presbyterian church shooter hated Taiwanese people.

  • At press conference, the OC sheriff said that his hatred was behind the shooting on Sunday.

  • The sheriff called it "one of the most horrific hate crimes," he had ever seen.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said at a press conference that the mass shooter who killed one person and injured five in Laguna Woods, California, was motivated by "hatred for the Taiwanese people."

The shooting took place around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Orange County, about 50 miles from Los Angeles. During the conference, Barnes said that the shooter drove to the church from Las Vegas, Nevada, targeting the largely Taiwanese congregation.

Officials said the suspect, who was identified as Chinese-American dual national David Chou, arrived at the church with a car filled with troves of ammunition and four Molotov cocktails that he planned to use on the church. When he entered the congregation, officials said he tried to superglue and chain-lock the doors to trap churchgoers before shooting.

"It was very well thought-out from what he had prepared from being there, securing the location, things about the inside of the room to perpetuate additional victims if he had the opportunity, that is methodical," Barnes said. "We know they were placed at least 24 hours in advance after his travel to Orange County from outside the area. The evidence collected will show how much more in detail he went in planning this attack and how far back that was."

At the press conference, Barnes said that local doctor John Cheng tried to rush the shooting suspect and successfully tackled him to the ground, but was killed by the suspect in the process.

"Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there would be numerous other deaths," Barnes said. The four wounded victims were between the ages of 66 and 92, according to the Orange County Sheriff.

At least 50 people were at the congregation on a mission trip from Taiwan, according to authorities. Barnes called it "one of the most horrific hate crimes," he had ever seen and added that two handguns were recovered from the church.

"Specifically we can tell you that within the vehicle, he left not a manifesto but some notes that supported what I shared with you earlier and that would be his hatred of the Taiwanese people," Barnes added. He said that authorities were reviewing a cell phone he left behind as well, and his digital imprint.

"I believe his hatred of Taiwan manifested when he was residing there in previous years, possibly in his youth. He was not well received, from what we believe and what we collected so far and that has manifested into this hatred," Barnes added.

Tensions between China and Taiwan have simmered in recent months, with conflicts arising over Taiwan's self-ruled status. A top US intelligence official said last week that China is set on building a military capable of taking over Taiwan by 2030. Taiwan, meanwhile, has maintained its independent status.

Barnes added that the shooting suspect immigrated to the US from China and lived across several US states, working as a security guard in Las Vegas. His wife lives in Taiwan, according to Barnes.

It was the second racially-motivated mass shooting in the US over the weekend. In Buffalo, New York, 10 people were killed in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The US Justice Department is investigating the attack "as a hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Federal officials said that a diatribe that appeared to belong to the suspect included plans to kill Black people and referenced the so-called replacement theory, a white supremacist conspiracy theory that believes white people are being replaced by people of color.

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