Suspect in Taiwanese church shooting indicted on federal hate crime charges


(SANTA ANA, Calif.) — The alleged gunman in a Taiwanese church shooting in California last year that killed one and injured five others now faces nearly 100 federal charges, including hate crimes.

David Chou, 69, of Las Vegas, was arrested following the mass shooting at a Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on May 15, 2022. He is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing into a crowd during a luncheon to honor a pastor returning from Taiwan. Investigators said at the time that Chou, a Chinese American citizen, was allegedly motivated by the political tension between China and Taiwan.

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Chou has been charged with 98 counts of hate crimes, weapons and explosives offenses.

A federal grand jury in Santa Ana indicted Chou on 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, which resulted in the death of one person and included attempts to kill 44 others, and 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act “by attacking the church congregants because of their actual or perceived Taiwanese national origin and Presbyterian faith,” prosecutors said.

He was also indicted on six counts of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, one count of carrying explosives during the commission of a federal felony offense, and one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce by means of fire and explosives.

If convicted on the federal charges, Chou faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty, prosecutors said. Online court records do not include any attorney information for him at this time.

Chou is already in state custody on charges including murder with an enhancement for a hate crime and five counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting. He pleaded not guilty to the state charges last year.

Chou allegedly tried to superglue the doors shut so victims could not flee, and placed ammunition and Molotov cocktails around the Geneva Presbyterian Church, authorities said. Dr. John Cheng, 52, was killed while trying to disarm the gunman during the attack, and five others were hurt by gunfire. A group of churchgoers was able to detain the shooter and hogtie his legs with an extension cord, authorities said.

Chou is Chinese but an American citizen, officials said. Authorities said at the time they believe Chou’s anger began when he lived in Taiwan, where he felt he was an outsider and his anti-Taiwan views were not accepted. His views became more radical as tensions between China and Taiwan escalated.

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