In the aftermath of a deadly church shooting in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday, law enforcement officials praised congregants for taking swift action to stop the shooter.
“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” said Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock in a statement.
The shooting took place around 1:30 p.m. California time during a luncheon held in honor of the church’s former pastor. That same pastor, the Rev. Billy Chang, reportedly hit the gunman with a chair when he stopped to reload, which allowed others to move in to help.
“Parishioners hog-tied (the shooter) with electrical cords,” The Associated Press reported.
Jerry Chen, a longtime member of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, described the scene to the AP. The shooting began near the end of the luncheon when participants were gathered around the Rev. Chang for pictures, he said.
“It was amazing how brave (Chang) and the others were,” Chen said.
On Monday, the shooter was identified as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas. He’s been booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder and is being held on $1 million bail, according to the AP.
“Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, identified as a Chinese immigrant, and the Taiwanese community. China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule,” the article noted.
Several news reports have pointed out that the congregation is comprised of mostly retired Taiwanese men and women. Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church holds its services at Geneva Presbyterian Church.
One man, Dr. John Cheng, 52, died as a result of the attack and five others were wounded: four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an Asian woman, age 86, according to the sheriff’s department.
During a news conference Monday, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Cheng had sacrificed his own life to help others survive.
“He took it upon himself to charge across the room and to do everything he could to disable the assailant,” Spitzer said. Cheng is survived by a wife and two children.
The Laguna Hills church shooting took place one day after a gunman attacked a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and four months after a high-profile assault on a synagogue in Texas. In the synagogue, as in the California church, worshippers worked together to overpower their attacker.
On Sunday, as in the wake of past attacks, officials highlighted how important it is for Americans to feel safe at their houses of worship.
“Churches are intended to be safe sanctuaries from hate and violence,” Spitzer told the Los Angeles Times.