By AMY TAXIN and STEFANIE DAZIO
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The person charged with opening hearth on a Taiwanese church congregation of primarily aged individuals in Southern California wished to “execute in chilly blood as many individuals in that room as doable,” a prosecutor stated Tuesday in asserting homicide, tried homicide and different expenses for the taking pictures that killed one individual and wounded 5.
Orange County District Legal professional Todd Spitzer described David Wenwei Chou, 68, as a monster whose rampage was thwarted by the heroic actions of a health care provider who charged at him, a pastor who hit Chou with a chair and several other parishioners who tied him up till police arrived.
“This monster crafted a diabolical plan to lock the church doorways along with his victims inside to be able to lead what he thought had been harmless lambs to slaughter,” Spitzer stated. “However what he didn’t understand was the parishioners on the church that day weren’t lambs – they had been lions they usually fought again towards the evil that attempted to infiltrate their home of worship.”
Spitzer stated Chou was motivated by hatred for Taiwan, the place he was born after his household was pressured from mainland China when Communists prevailed in a civil warfare that led to 1949. He apparently selected the church at random and didn’t know anybody there, authorities stated.
He drove from his residence in Las Vegas on Saturday and arrived on the church the subsequent day. Chou spent about an hour mingling with dozens of members of the congregation at a luncheon, which Spitzer stated was Chou’s means of gaining their belief so that they wouldn’t discover as he started finishing up his plot — chaining closed doorways, tremendous gluing locks and putting incendiary gadgets in a number of places.
Chou’s technique amounted to “mendacity in wait,” Spitzer stated, a authorized designation that may improve penalties if he’s convicted.
“This case is in regards to the individual concealing themselves in plain view,” he stated.
If Chou is convicted and the jury finds the enhancements to be true, he would face a sentence of both life in jail with out risk of parole or the loss of life penalty, Spitzer stated.
Chou’s arraignment was continued to June 10 and he didn’t enter a plea throughout his first court docket look on Tuesday. He’ll proceed to be held with out bail. His public defender, Tania Vallejo, didn’t instantly return an electronic mail requesting remark.
Authorities have stated Chou — a U.S. citizen who labored for years as a safety guard — was motivated by hatred of Taiwanese individuals documented in handwritten notes that authorities discovered. Spitzer stated he’s contemplating hate crime expenses however wants extra time to analyze.
“Whereas there’s very sturdy proof proper now that this was motivated by hate, we need to make sure that we’ve got put collectively all of the proof that confirms that principle within the case,” he stated. Federal authorities are conducting their very own hate crime investigation.
Tensions between China and Taiwan are on the highest in many years, with Beijing stepping up its army harassment by flying fighter jets towards the self-governing island. China has not dominated out drive to reunify with Taiwan.
Chou had ties to a Las Vegas group against Taiwan’s independence from China, in keeping with Taiwanese media.
Balmore Orellana, a former neighbor in Las Vegas, stated Chou had been a pleasant landlord however his life unraveled after his spouse left him final 12 months and returned to Taiwan. Spitzer stated the suspect’s spouse is terminally ailing.
Chou moved right into a four-bedroom home in February. His roommate, Jordin Davis, stated he was a form and quiet man who typically shared his meals. Chou recognized himself as a Christian and made a cross in black tape on the roof of his automobile however by no means talked about faith, Davis stated.
The 2 had few conversations past small discuss or chatting about Davis’ canine, Zeus. Chou would “come residence, fall asleep, take a bathe, go to work and simply repeat that routine once more,” Davis stated.
Chou solely spoke about Taiwan as soon as, throughout a dialog lower than two weeks in the past, Davis stated. Chou stated he felt the Taiwanese authorities was corrupt and disliked how individuals on the island had been sympathetic to the management.
“He made himself look like he was mainly a political refugee,” Davis stated.
Authorities searched the house on Monday, Davis stated, and took a laptop computer. Officers have stated they’re investigating digital data as a part of the investigation.
Chou is accused firing at parishioners throughout a Sunday luncheon for members of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the neighborhood of Laguna Woods.
He had two 9 mm handguns — legally bought years in the past in Las Vegas — and three baggage, containing 4 Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary gadgets and additional ammunition, in keeping with authorities. He opened hearth and within the ensuing chaos Dr. John Cheng, 52, tackled him, permitting different parishioners to subdue him and tie him up with an extension twine, the authorities stated.
Cheng died and 5 individuals had been wounded, together with an 86-year-old lady and 4 males starting from 66 to 92, the sheriff’s division stated. Some have already got been launched from the hospital and others had been in steady situation, in keeping with the church’s former pastor, Billy Chang.
The luncheon got here after a morning service to welcome Chang, who had served the church for 20 years. Chang moved again to Taiwan two years in the past and this was his first time again.
Chou entered the church sanctuary throughout companies, giving his title to the receptionist as “Da-Wei Chou,” and sat within the again studying one of many church-provided Chinese language-language newspapers, in keeping with a church assertion issued Tuesday.
He was carrying a black shirt with a phrase written on it in white that some believed stated “Safety,” the assertion stated.
The service was adopted by an grownup Sunday faculty session that Chou apparently didn’t attend, however he confirmed up later on the lunch, the church stated.
Close to the top of the lunch, some parishioners took photos with Chang and began leaving. They noticed Chou starting to lock the doorways with iron chains however he allowed them to exit, the church assertion stated.
“After they requested him about his actions, he refused to reply. They assumed he was a safety guard,” the assertion stated.
One man forgot some issues contained in the church and wished to return, however Chou didn’t let him into the corridor and one other church member who was inside stated he noticed Chou nailing two exit doorways shut, the assertion stated.
In a press release Tuesday recounting the taking pictures, Chang stated he first thought Chou was utilizing a toy gun as a prank when Chou opened hearth. When Chang realized it was precise gunfire, he picked up a chair and threw it at Chou, who fell on the ground. Chang rushed at Chou and three different congregation members held Chou down and tied him up.
“It wasn’t till then I observed that Dr. Cheng was mendacity facedown to my entrance proper with three bloody bullet wounds on the again, not shifting,” Chang stated.
Authorities have stated that Cheng had charged at Chou and disrupted the gunfire. Sheriff Don Barnes on Monday known as Cheng’s heroism “a gathering of excellent versus evil” that most likely saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of individuals.”
Cheng, who practiced sports activities drugs, had not too long ago misplaced his father and took his mom to the luncheon. He was well-known in the neighborhood and preferred by his sufferers.
Related Press journalists John Antczak in Los Angeles, and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.