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Authorities say California church shooter was motivated by hate for Taiwanese people

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Investigators say the man who walked into a southern California church and began shooting on Sunday was motivated by political hate. From member station KPCC, here's Robert Garrova.

ROBERT GARROVA, BYLINE: The Orange County Sheriff's Department says 68-year-old suspect David Chou is a Chinese American citizen who drove from Las Vegas to the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, south of Los Angeles. They say he made his way to a luncheon for a Taiwanese congregation attended by about 40 people. The attendees were in a banquet hall that has a stage with a black curtain. That's where officials say the suspect hid Molotov cocktails and rounds of ammunition. Chou allegedly secured the doors with chains and attempted to jam locks with superglue. After Chou opened fire, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes says a 52-year-old doctor attending the event, John Cheng, charged the suspect. Cheng was fatally shot.

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DON BARNES: Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is no doubt that there would be numerous additional victims in this crime. Dr. Cheng is a hero in this incident.

GARROVA: Cheng, who specialized in sports medicine, has been described as an empathetic physician. He is survived by a wife and two children. Five additional congregants, ranging in age from 66 to 92, were also injured. Barnes says congregants detained the suspect with extension cords before deputies arrived.

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BARNES: During the struggle, other parishioners got involved. A pastor threw a chair at the subject, and they were able to render him subdued.

GARROVA: Barnes says the shooting was an isolated incident and that the information collected so far shows Chou was acting alone. The Orange County district attorney says there is a lot of evidence that the suspect had an absolute bias towards the Taiwanese people. Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, says the agency has opened a federal hate crimes investigation.

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KRISTI JOHNSON: We have discovered evidence that the individual was motivated by some type of hate - digital evidence, written evidence and, of course, witness statements.

GARROVA: Authorities say the suspect was apparently upset over political tensions between China and Taiwan. They say Chou had worked as a security guard in the Las Vegas area. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent Stephen Galloway says two 9 mm caliber semiautomatic pistols were found at the scene.

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STEPHEN GALLOWAY: The suspect lawfully purchased the firearms in Las Vegas, Nev.

GARROVA: Chou is facing one count of felony murder and five counts of attempted murder. For NPR News, I'm Robert Garrova in Orange County, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.