The gunman said to have killed one and injured five people inside the Geneva Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods on Sunday, May 15, was politically motivated and displayed a personal hatred toward the Taiwanese community, according to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.
The suspect was motivated by the current political relationships between China and Taiwan. The attack occurred while parishioners were celebrating the return of pastors, who had returned from Taiwan.
Barnes added that there are no known local ties to the suspect and he was not a regular member of the church.
Prior to entering the church, the suspect was said to have secured doors with chains, “tried to disable the locks with superglue,” and brought in additional ammunition and Molotov cocktails inside two separate bags.
Barnes added that the attendees inside the church acted fearlessly and helped disarm the suspect.
“He started shooting inside the building and five people were wounded by gunshots. The only parishioners attending were Asian-Americans, ages 66-years-old to 92-years-old,” he said.
Barnes credited the work of Dr. John Cheng, a resident of Laguna Niguel, who he called a hero.
“Dr. John Cheng of Laguna Niguel took heroic actions – Dr. Cheng is a hero in this incident. It is known that Dr. Cheng charged the suspect and attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to then intercede, taking the suspect into custody,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he believes if the parishioners inside did not act ask quickly as they did, many more would have been injured or killed.
“I really want to thank the members of the congregation who were there yesterday. Their quick actions, following Dr. Cheng’s attack on the suspect, really brought to resolution the conclusion of this incident that could have been much much worse,” he said.
Barnes added that based on the suspect’s preparation to carry out this act, it was meant to intentionally injure several people.
“The way that this individual set up this environment — there would have been many many more lives lost if it wasn’t if not for the concerted effort of the members of the church. “
Orange County Fire Authority Commander Mike Contreras said OCFA Firefighter and Paramedic teams treated a total of six victims.
“Of those six patients, two were treated at Mission Hospital and are currently in good condition — that’s an upgrade from stable to good. Two additional patients were transferred to OC Global, and are listed as stable,” he said.
Contreras said a status update on the fifth gunshot victim was not available, but that the patient had been transferred to UCI Medical Center. The sixth victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Monday, the Geneva Presbyterian Church, which is located off El Toro Road, posted the following message via its website.
“To Our Loving Community: We are profoundly humbled and grateful for the support we’ve received since the tragic events of yesterday, but as you may guess our hands are full assisting our faith community and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in navigating this tragedy. For this reason we ask and appreciate news organizations to visit the Orange County Sheriff’s Department website at the link below for all the latest news releases and updates. Also at this time our campus is closed to all visitors.”