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Doctor who died as he tackled gunman in church shooting is hailed a hero

Dr John Cheng was killed as he stopped a man shooting at worshippers in a Taiwanese church in California.

A photo of Dr John Cheng outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church.
A photo of Dr John Cheng outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church.

A GUNMAN MOTIVATED by hatred against Taiwan chained shut the doors of a California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners, US authorities said.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, a US citizen whom authorities say grew up in Taiwan,  attended a Sunday lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods.

He opened fire at the parishioners and in the ensuing chaos Dr John Cheng, 52, tackled him, allowing others to subdue him and tie him up with extension cords.

Cheng died and five people were wounded, the oldest 92.

Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng’s heroism “a meeting of good versus evil” that probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people”.

Chou was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and jailed on $1 million bail.

It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

When Chou arrived to the church he spent about an hour mingling with about 40 attendees, despite not knowing anyone there, and then executed his plot, authorities said at a news conference.

He chained the doors and put super glue in the keyholes. He had two 9mm handguns – legally purchased years ago in Las Vegas – and three bags, containing among other things four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and extra ammunition.

Jerry Chen, a long-time member of the church, said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang, a beloved and respected community member who had served the church for 20 years.

Everyone had just finished lunch and were taking photos with Chang when Chen went into the kitchen. That’s when he heard the gunshots.

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Barnes said Cheng, a sports medicine doctor who is survived by a wife and two children, charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene. Chang hit the gunman on the head with a chair before other parishioners subdued him.

Barnes said the motive for the shooting was Chou’s hatred toward Taiwan that was documented in handwritten notes that authorities found.

Chou’s family apparently was among many forcibly removed from mainland China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.

Barnes said Chou acted alone and was “not believed to be associated with any specific church or any religion, and there’s no direct connection to the church or any member of the church that we’re aware of”.

Those wounded by gunshots included an 86-year-old woman as well as four men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, the sheriff’s department said.

Authorities said yesterday that two of the wounded were in good condition, two were in stable condition and the status of the fifth patient was undetermined.

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