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Suspect in US church shooting charged with federal hate crimes

by Reuters Journalist
California shooting.JPG - Banner image

 A man accused of killing a doctor and wounding five other people in a shooting at a Taiwanese-American church banquet in California has been indicted on dozens of federal hate, weapons and explosive crimes, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The suspect, David Chou, 69, opened fire at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, about 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Los Angeles, on May 15, 2022, in an methodically planned attack, authorities said.  

The shooting began as members of a Taiwanese Presbyterian congregation from nearby Irvine, California, were attending a luncheon at the church honoring a former local pastor. Doctor John Cheng was killed in the shooting, and five other people were wounded. 

All of the victims were of Asian heritage.

"Chou allegedly acted because of the victims’ national origin and religion, and he intentionally obstructed the victims’ religious exercise," the Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday announcing that a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Chou.      

Chou, from Nevada, was indicted on 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, 45 counts of hate crimes and eight counts of weapons and explosive violations, the agency said. 

If convicted, he faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole. He is being held in jail on state charges. 

Chou, described by the sheriff as a U.S. citizen and Las Vegas resident born in China, drove to Southern California the day before shooting. 

Before entering the church, he chained the doors, put glue in the locks and placed three bags around the building containing various items, including additional ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-like devices, police said.

Authorities said Chou carried out the attack because he was upset over Chinese-Taiwanese tensions. 

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