Investigators are hoping to gain insight into the motivations of the man accused of opening fire at a Taiwanese church congregation in Laguna Woods, thanks to seven volumes of writings he apparently mailed to a Chinese-language newspaper prior to the attack.
Authorities were looking over the documents, which were sent to the World Journal’s office in Los Angeles, apparently by accused gunman David Wenwei Chou. The newspaper reported that it received the papers, but it did not read them or publish any of its contents. The paper did print a photo of the documents, which were accompanied by at least one flash drive.
World Journal officials turned to the documents over to investigators. There’s still been no word on what the diary contains.
Authorities have said that Chou was motivated to carry out the shooting due to a long-standing grievance against Taiwan over tensions with China. Chou, a Taiwanese immigrant, lived in Las Vegas, but targeted the congregation in Laguna Woods Sunday afternoon for reasons that are still under investigation.
Chou, 68, was charged Tuesday with capital murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of possession of an explosive device. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he believes Chou intended to kill everyone in the church, then burn down the building.
Killed in the shooting was 52-year-old Aliso Viejo Dr. John Cheng, who authorities say charged the gunman inside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in the 24300 block of El Toro Road, saving the lives of congregants attending a luncheon honoring a returning pastor.
Thanks to Cheng’s efforts, other parishioners were able to tackle the gunman, ultimately hog-tying him with an electrical cord.
“His heroism saved so many people NOT only at that church but throughout his career,” organizers wrote on a GoFundMe page established to assist Cheng’s family. “His family is grief-stricken by this loss which comes only three months after the loss of Dr. Cheng’s father. Dr. Cheng was the sole provider supporting his two children in high school and his wife. They are heartbroken and reeling from the loss of their father. As his colleagues, family and community, we want to honor his life by supporting his family during this difficult time.”
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Monday, “Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there would be additional victims in this crime,” Barnes said.
Barnes said Chou was in possession of four incendiary devices resembling Molotov cocktails, along with a bag of additional ammunition. Authorities said he barricaded doors of the church in hopes of locking the congregation inside so they could not escape the shooting, which he carried out with a pair of legally purchased semiautomatic handguns.
Chou appeared in court Tuesday, but his arraignment was delayed until June 10. He remains jailed without bail.
A Mass in Cheng’s honor was held Tuesday afternoon at his children’s school, Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
Cheng’s medical practice, South Coast Medical Group in Aliso Viejo, paid tribute to him on its website, calling him a “simplistic, humble, utmost giving man.”
“He supported his community in so many ways. He donated multiple hours of his time on so many different occasions. Dr. Cheng always listened to his patients and gave them the time they needed to feel heard. Dr. Cheng practiced medicine in ways we admired. He always assured his patients left our practice feeling so much better than when they arrived.”
Cheng was certified in family and sports medicine, the son of a physician and an “accomplished martial arts instructor.” He grew up in Texas, studied at Texas Tech School of Medicine and did his residency at UCLA.
Authorities contend that Chou went to the church Sunday and mingled with parishioners before pulling out two weapons and opening fire.
Barnes said investigators have determined the shooting was an isolated incident carried out solely by Chou, and the shooting was a “politically motivated hate incident.” Barnes said the suspect “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.”
Sheriff’s officials initially said Chou was born in China and his family moved to Taiwan, but on Tuesday investigators determined he was born and raised in Taiwan and that over the years he developed a “grievance” against the Taiwanese community as tensions between the two countries heightened, sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.
Investigators found a note in Chou’s car in the church parking lot that indicated his animosity toward Taiwan.