Congregants used an extension cord to hogtie a gunman who killed a man and wounded five Asian churchgoers — four critically — at a Laguna Woods church Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the five wounded victims were described as:
— a 66-year-old man;
— a 92-year-old man;
— an 82-year-old man;
— a 75-year-old man;
— and an 86-year-old woman.
The deceased victim was described only as a man.
The OCSD said the shooting happened around 1:25 p.m. inside Geneva Presbyterian Church at 24301 El Toro Road.
“Four victims have been critically wounded, one with minor injuries. All victims are adults, and are en route to the hospital. One victim is deceased at the scene,” the department said.
Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said the fatally injured victim was a man, and that a large number of the people inside the church during the shooting were of Taiwanese descent. The attack happened during a banquet following the morning service and churchgoers detained the man, tying him up with an extension cord.
Two handguns were taken from the attacker, whom he described as an Asian man in his 60s. His motive was not immediately clear. The man was taken into custody at the scene, Hallock said.
The Los Angeles branch of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent special agents to Laguna Woods to assist the OCSD with its investigation.
Stephen Galloway, the assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office, said the agency has placed an emergency trace on the handguns recovered at the scene. The trace was sent to the ATF’s office in West Virginia and should return quickly to the ATF’s local field office in Orange County. Once they get the trace information back the next step will be to identify the dealers who sold the man his handguns, Galloway said.
Kristi Johnson, agent in charge of the local FBI office, said the bureau was providing extra resources to assist the sheriff’s department in their investigation. “Right now we are working very hard to provide a motive for the shooting. This is critically important.”
The bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit was on scene.
Laguna Woods is a “relatively exclusive (community) for people 55 and older,” according to NBC News. “It opened as Leisure World in 1964. It became the county’s 32nd city in 1999.”
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett of the Fifth District said the board was making sure that mental health professionals would be made available to those impacted by the shooting.
Sheriff’s officials said they expect to hold another news conference early Monday morning.
El Toro Road was closed between Calle Sonora and Canyon Wren, and people were urged to avoid the area.
“A shooting at a church in Laguna Woods has left multiple people injured and one deceased. This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo,” said Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, whose district includes Laguna Woods. “This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also weighed in, releasing the following statement regarding deadly gun violence in both Buffalo, New York and Orange County. “We cannot be a nation where multiple mass shootings in a single weekend is normal, where gun violence and the hate that so often drives it is tolerated. We need Congress to do something and pass the same, commonsense gun laws that every other modernized democracy has in place, and here in L.A. County, I am committed to getting as many guns off the street as I can.”
The office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted the following statement:
“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement. No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event.”
The shooting comes one day after a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, was targeted by a heavily armed shooter who killed 10 people and wounded three others. Authorities arrested an 18-year-old man in that crime, which they said was racially motivated. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black.
Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, issued a statement extending his “thoughts and prayers,” adding, “It is almost unthinkable that one of the safest places in the country would be hit by the specter of gun violence.”
“We should refuse to accept these tragedies as the new normal in our schools, our houses of worship or anywhere,” Min said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, issued a statement, saying, “It is horrifying to be grieving yet another tragic shooting in just 72 hours — another weekend in America defined by senseless violence.
“Tonight, my heart is with the congregants of Geneva Presbyterian Church and the entire Laguna Woods community as they mourn and pray for their loved ones. My heart is also with those in Buffalo, in Milwaukee, and every community torn apart by gun violence.”
Schiff concluded by adding, “I will never accept this bloodshed as unavoidable. It can be stopped. But as we’ve seen over the past few days, months and years, unless we take immediate action on gun safety measures, history will repeat itself. Again and again. Enough is enough. We must act.”