Murder Charge Filed in Campground Shooting Rampage

Prosecutors filed murder and attempted murder charges Wednesday against the suspect in last week's shooting rampage at a rural Roman Catholic Korean retreat, a day after Southern California authorities said he confessed.

John Suchan Chong, 69, was scheduled for arraignment on one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in Riverside County Superior Court in Murrieta. But district attorney's spokesman John Hall said the proceeding was likely to be postponed because Chong, badly injured in the violence, was not expected to be medically cleared to attend.

It wasn't immediately clear if Chong had an attorney and no attorney was listed for him in initial court records.

The charges carry enhancements of using a firearm to commit a felony and discharging a firearm to cause great bodily injury.

Chong, held on $1 million bail, could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of all charges, said Hall.

Investigators said Chong fatally shot a woman at the Kkottongnae Retreat Camp near Temecula and wounded her husband on April 7 before another couple disarmed him in a violent struggle after he tried to shoot them.

Chong suffered severe head trauma in the fight and was initially unconscious, when authorities responded to the scene in hilly wine country 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

When Chong came to, he told investigators he was angry with the couples because he felt they didn't contribute enough to work done around the camp, said sheriff's Sgt. Michael Lujan. Chong and the two couples were volunteers who lived at the retreat.

"He believed that the victims were not treating him fairly, or at least that was his perception," Lujan said. "His statement was that he's known them over three years and did not agree with the way that they were living their lives."

Lujan said investigators couldn't come up with a more specific motive and Chong did not say that any one event triggered the attack. He was interviewed through a Korean interpreter who is also a sworn sheriff's deputy, Lujan said.

Hall gave The Associated Press a detailed account of the attack based on a briefing with prosecutors and sheriff's investigators Tuesday.

He said relations between Chong and the first couple he attacked, Jong Pil Yun and his wife Chuneui Yun, deteriorated recently and they hadn't seen Chong for several weeks. When they saw him approaching their home the night of April 7, they thought he was coming to smooth things over because it was just before Easter.

The Yuns invited Chong to dinner, but he pulled the revolver from his waistband and aimed it at Chuneui Yun as she dropped to her knees to pray, Hall said. Her husband, Jong Pil Yun, tried to swat the gun away and was shot in the torso before Chong fatally shot the wife in the head, and then went to the home of Joseph and Julianna Kim, Hall said.

According to the account, Chong entered while Julianna Kim was praying and her husband was in a bedroom reading the Bible. Hall said Chong fired a shot at Julianna Kim at close range, but missed. Her husband ran to the living room and began to wrestle the gun from Chong, eventually using a dumbbell to beat him, Hall said.

One shot was fired, but no one was hit.

At some point, Hall said, Joseph Kim wrested the revolver from Chong and his wife picked it up and ran out of the house. A neighbor earlier told The Associated Press that Julianna Kim pounded on her door, hysterical and holding the gun, around 7:30 p.m.

Chong was beaten so badly that responding deputies found him on the Kims' front porch in a pool of blood, Hall said.

The suspect was transferred from a regular hospital to a jail hospital late Monday.

Investigators hadn't been able to find any relatives of Chong and he had no criminal record, said Lujan. A search of Riverside County records turned up a speeding ticket from 2008.

The retreat, run by Korean nuns, is one of four U.S. branches of the Kkottongnae Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to serving the poor and homeless. It was founded in Cheongju, South Korea, by Father Oh Woong Jin in 1976.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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