The gunman who allegedly killed a doctor and wounded five others after opening fire in a California church has been charged with murder.
David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, will be eligible for the death penalty for attempting to “execute in cold blood as many people in that room as possible” during the mass shooting, prosecutors said in a statement.
He had two 9 mm handguns legally purchased years ago in Las Vegas and three bags, containing four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and extra ammunition, according to authorities
“This is not a case that I’m ruling out for death,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a press conference.
Chou allegedly lurked inside of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods for hours before he chained the doors shut and started shooting worshippers inside.
“He did everything he could to fit in, to make himself one of them,” Spitzer said.
Chou, a licensed security guard in Nevada, had intended to kill as many people as possible.
“He had the ammunition to do it. He had the weaponry to do it. He had the training to do it,” Spitzer said.
Chou is currently jailed on a $1 million bail, according to the prosecutor’s office. He’s charged with 10 counts, including first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of possessing destructive devices with the intent to kill or harm.
The FBI said Monday it has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting against Chou who could face additional charges.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told reporters on Monday that Chou, a US citizen and Chinese national, “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.” He said Chou’s hatred toward Taiwan was documented in handwritten notes recovered by investigators.
Chou’s family apparently was among many forcibly removed from mainland China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Spitzer said on Monday.
Congregants were celebrating a pastor’s return from a mission trip to Taiwan at the time of the shooting.
Officials said Chou had driven to southern California on Saturday armed with two legally purchased 9mm handguns. He arrived at the church around 10 a.m. just before the Sunday service began.
He stuck around the church until the early afternoon, where he attended a lunch celebrating the return of the pastor.
After the meal, congregants spotted Chou “applying iron chains to start locking the doors shut,” a letter from the church said. When they confronted him about his actions, Chou reportedly refused to respond. “They assumed he was a security guard,” the letter stated.
He then allegedly nailed two other doors shut, the letter says. Cops said the suspect also put superglue in the keyholes before he began shooting.
Dr. John Cheng, 53, a sports medicine specialist and married father of two from Laguna Niguel, was killed after he tackled Chou to try to stop the bloodshed, police and the church said.
“Dr. Cheng is a hero,” Spitzer said Tuesday. “It is known that Dr. Cheng charged the individual, the suspect, attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to then intercede, taking the suspect into custody.”
The parishioners were able to subdue Chou and tied him up with an extension cord until the police arrived.
If Chou is convicted and the jury finds the enhancements to be true, he would face a sentence of either life in prison without possibility of parole or the death penalty, Spitzer said.