View Original Notice ? Churchgoers hogtie gunman after 1 killed, 5 wounded at Laguna Woods church
A gunman killed one person and wounded five others at a Taiwanese luncheon in a Laguna Woods church on Sunday, then was tackled by churchgoers who hogtied his legs with extension cords, officials said.
The crowd also managed to take two handguns away from him, said Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock.
“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery,” Hallock said.
The five wounded – four of them critically – range in age from 66 to 92.
The man’s name was not released Sunday, but Hallock described him as Asian in his 60s, and not believed to live in the area. Any connection to the church wasn’t known.
Dispatchers received a call of a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church at 1:26 p.m., Sheriff’s officials said. The church is located at 24301 El Toro Road.
The Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church was holding a banquet in the church at the time of the shooting.
The lone fatal victim died inside the church, officials said. The others with critical injuries, all adults, were rushed to local hospitals. A sixth person had minor injuries.
Hallock said the suspect pulled out at least one of his handguns and started firing during the luncheon, when around 30 to 40 people were inside the church.
The entire incident unfolded in just a few minutes. As soon as they had the man on the ground, the churchgoers tied him up with the cords, Hallock said.
“I think it’s safe to say if people had not intervened, it could have been much worse,” he said.
Yorba Linda Councilwoman Peggy Huang has family members who belong to the church.
“There is a lot of grief and disbelief among the congregation,” she said “This was supposed to be a joyous occasion.”
The church was hosting a special service and a banquet to honor a former pastor visiting from Taiwan, Huang said.
The gunman was an older man who told church volunteers he had been there before. But he wasn’t recognized by longtime parishioners, she said.
Churchgoers were having lunch together and snapping photos to commemorate the occasion when the gunfire rang out.
The visiting pastor then struck the suspect with a chair, she said, knocking him to the ground.
Moments later, other members of the congregation dogpiled onto him.
The Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church conducts services at Geneva Presbyterian on Sundays starting at 10 a.m., according to the church’s website.
The church moved from Irvine around five to seven years ago, said Cynthia Connors, a member of Geneva Presbyterian and the mayor pro tem of Laguna Woods. She said the church typically always has lunch after their morning service, and usually hosts about 150 worshippers each week.
Connors was at the church Sunday morning before the shooting.
“I never expected this to happen here,” she said. “But, it means it can happen anywhere.”
The Taiwanese church community is deeply connected. This one hits close to home as the pastor and wife of Irvine Presbyterian Church Laguna Woods are our family friends. So many Ama and Agongs were there. This was their community. I'm sick.
— Rebecca Hong (@ItsRebeccaHong) May 16, 2022
The Presbytery of Los Ranchos said in a statement it is “deeply saddened by a fatal shooting that occurred at a lunch reception honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation that nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods … Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting.”
Several dozen people could be seen waiting in a playground shaded by a blue awning adjacent to the church as they waited to be interviewed by officials.
Hallock said detectives had not determined the gunman’s motives. It was not clear if he was targeting anyone in particular or was known to anyone at the church. He said more information would come after detectives spoke to church members.
“Until we do that, we won’t really have a good idea if he was known to the congregants,” Hallock said.
Sandria Chou, who spoke to Sheriff’s deputies outside the church Sunday, said her 92-year-old father and 87-year-old mother were among those shot and wounded inside. The couple also lives in Laguna Woods and goes to church each Sunday.
Chou said a bullet grazed her mother’s shirt and hit her father’s legs. He was taken to the hospital and the mother was being interviewed by police.
A spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles announced they are helping Orange County officials with the investigation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also providing assistance. An ATF spokesman said agents had already checked both guns and found that they had serial numbers, meaning both were sold commercially.
Laguna Woods Village, a massive, private retirement community, makes up most of the city of Laguna Woods.
The city and retirement community are frequented by local politicians. A little over a week ago, several Democratic candidates for local office said they visited. Pete Hardin, an attorney running for Orange County District Attorney, said on Twitter that he appeared at a Laguna Woods town hall with current State Senator Dave Min and Dr. Asif Mahmood, who is running for the California 40th Congressional District, on May 8.
Current Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has a town hall to discuss hate crimes planned in Laguna Woods for May 19.
“This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo,” said Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, whose district includes Laguna Woods. “This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement Sunday said his office was monitoring the shooting.
“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship,” Newsom said. “Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event.”
Staff writer Scott Schwebke contributed to this report.