Shooting suspect in California was motivated by hate for Taiwan - police

David Chou, 68, is a Chinese immigrant from Las Vegas, whose motive was a grievance between him and the Taiwanese community.

 A police car is seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID SWANSON)
A police car is seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID SWANSON)

The suspect in a southern California shooting that left one dead and five wounded was likely motivated by his hatred for Taiwanese people, local police have concluded.

The shooting that took place on Sunday was carried out by David Chou, a 68-year-old Chinese immigrant who opened fire inside a church located in Laguna Woods.

Chou, who is being held at Orange County Central Jail, drove 300 miles (483 km) on Saturday from Las Vegas to Southern California, heavily armed with two semi-automatic weapons and four incendiary devices, police said.

He attended a church luncheon that a Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation was holding at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, a community of mostly retired people south of Los Angeles, before opening fire.

An official from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, the Taiwan government's office there, told Reuters that Chou had been born in Taiwan in 1953, still had an active Taiwanese passport, and had done military service for the East Asian country off the southeast coast of China.

 The Geneva Presbyterian Church is seen after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods. (credit: REUTERS/DAVID SWANSON) The Geneva Presbyterian Church is seen after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods. (credit: REUTERS/DAVID SWANSON)

But prosecutors say he hated Taiwan and had notes written in Mandarin in his car indicating that he was angry about current tensions between the island nation and the Chinese mainland.

The shooting "was a politically motivated hate incident, a grievance that this individual had between himself and the Taiwanese community at large," Orange County Sherrif Don Barnes said in a press conference, adding that "It is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan."

This was further supported by discoveries made by Taiwanese citizens, who unearthed pictures of a man who appears similar to Chou and with the same name attending the inaugural meeting of Las Vegas National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification in 2019, according to a report in Taiwan News.

The organization in question is a semi-official Chinese group that advocates for a peaceful Chinese annexation of Taiwan and is chaired by a member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. In fact, the organization was designated a foreign mission of China by the US State Department in 2020.

Chinese government spokesman Liu Pengyu said his country condemned incidents of violence, but urged people not to speculate on Chou's motives until more was known.

"We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured," he said. "We wish the injured an early recovery."

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was deeply concerned about the incident and has instructed the island's foreign ministry to help the victims and their families, the ministry said on Tuesday.