Laguna Woods

Hate Crime Allegation Added to Charges in Deadly OC Church Shooting

The 68-year-old man arrested in the Laguna Woods church shooting faces hate crime allegations in addition to murder and attempted murder charges.

Flowers are left outside a Laguna Woods church.
Toni Guinyard

Prosecutors have accused a Las Vegas man of committing a hate crime by killing one person and wounding five at a mass shooting at a Taiwanese American church luncheon in California.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office said Friday that authorities added hate crime allegations to the murder and attempted murder charges filed against 68-year-old David Wenwei Chou.

"Prosecutors filed an amended complaint this week to add a special circumstance that Chou intentionally killed his victim because of his race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, and five enhancements of a hate crime for each of the five counts of attempted murder," the Orange County District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Authorities have said Chou opened fire on a May lunch gathering of members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. A 52-year-old doctor who took his mother to the event was killed.

Dr. John Cheng charged and tried to disarm the gunman, allowing other people to intervene, the sheriff's department said. Eventually, he was hog-tied until law enforcement officers arrived.

A man is accused of shooting six people in a Laguna Woods church on Sunday, killing one and injuring five. Alex Rozier reports for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

Chou was armed with two 9 mm handguns and had several backpacks, including extra magazines and four Molotov cocktail-type devices, the DA's office said. He is accused of securing the banquet hall doors shut before the attack.

Authorities have said Chou was motivated by hatred of Taiwan, where he was born and grew up after his family was forced from mainland China when Communists took control. China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule.

Those who know Chou said the suspected shooter's life was unraveling in the months leading to the church shooting. A neighbor and acquaintances told NBC4 that many aspects of his life were going downhill.

Chou is expected to be arraigned on Aug. 19. He did not enter a plea at an initial court appearance last month.

Messages seeking comment were sent Friday to public defenders listed in the online court record for Chou, who is being held without bail.

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