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Asian-American man, 68, pleads not guilty to killing doctor, and injuring five others at church

A Las Vegas man accused of killing a doctor and killing five others at a Southern California church lunch because of his hatred for Taiwan pleaded not guilty on Friday. 

David Chou, 68, was charged with murder with an enhancement of a hate crime after he opened fire in May at a Taiwanese congregation that was meeting at a church in Laguna Woods, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles

Dr. John Cheng, 52, was killed trying to stop Chou, whose actions were motivated by ‘political tensions between China and Taiwan.’ Five others were injured but survived their injuries.

Chou appeared in court on August 19 behind a metal-like cage separating him from others. The 68-year-old wore glasses, a face mask, and a yellow jumpsuit. He wore a headset and spoke with the help of a Mandarin interpreter. 

The gunman struggled to understand what the judge was telling him – which he told the interpreter. 

He has been ordered by Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera to be held without bail at the Theo Lacy jail and will appear back in court for a pre-trial hearing on October 21. 

David Chou, 68, pleaded not guilty on Friday to killing Dr. John Cheng, 52, and injuring five others during a luncheon following a Taiwanese service in Laguna Hills, Calif. in May

Chou, who is from Las Vegas, appeared in court on August 19 behind a metal-like cage on August 19. Wearing a headset, a Mandarin interpreter translated his words to the judge

Chou, who is from Las Vegas, appeared in court on August 19 behind a metal-like cage on August 19. Wearing a headset, a Mandarin interpreter translated his words to the judge

Chou appeared in court for the first time after he was motivated to commit the mass shooting by hatred for Taiwan

 Chou appeared in court for the first time after he was motivated to commit the mass shooting by hatred for Taiwan

Defense attorney Tania Vallego appeared in court with Chou who is to be arraigned on a capital murder charge

Defense attorney Tania Vallego appeared in court with Chou who is to be arraigned on a capital murder charge

John Cheng was shot and killed in the shooting on Sunday at the California church. Cheng attempted to stop the gunman when he was struck

John Cheng was shot and killed in the shooting on Sunday at the California church. Cheng attempted to stop the gunman when he was struck 

The shooting happened in the small city of Laguna Woods, about 55 mi south of Los Angeles

The shooting happened in the small city of Laguna Woods, about 55 mi south of Los Angeles

The Taiwanese congregation were meeting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church for a Sunday service

The Taiwanese congregation were meeting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church for a Sunday service

County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has said Chou was motivated by hatred for Taiwan, where he was born after his family was forced from mainland China when communists prevailed in a civil war that ended in 1949.

He apparently chose the church on May 15 at random and didn’t know anyone there before he drove to California from Las Vegas on Saturday, authorities said.

Authorities have said Chou sat through a church service before attending the luncheon in honor of a former pastor, where he mingled with the parishioners for about 40 minutes before chaining and nailing shut exit doors and opening fire.

When gunfire erupted, Dr. John Cheng, 52, charged Chou and was shot, but authorities said he disrupted the attack and may have saved dozens of lives.

The former pastor, Billy Chang, then picked up a chair and threw it at Chou, who fell to the floor. Chang said he rushed at Chou and several congregation members held Chou down and tied him up.

Chou was armed with two legally purchased 9 mm handguns and concealed bags holding ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-style devices in the church hall where the luncheon was being held, authorities said.

Authorities say, Chou apparently chose the church on May 15 at random and didn't know anyone there before he drove to California from Las Vegas the day before

Authorities say, Chou apparently chose the church on May 15 at random and didn’t know anyone there before he drove to California from Las Vegas the day before

Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera ordered Chou to be held without bail

Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera ordered Chou to be held without bail 

Church goers are seen as police investigate after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods on May 15

Church goers are seen as police investigate after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods on May 15

Before the shooting, Chou spent $16.10 to mail seven thick photocopied volumes of handwritten Chinese text and a flash drive to the World Journal office in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, according to photos published in the Chinese-language paper.

The pages bore the title: ‘Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence’ in an apparent reference to Taiwan’s self-government. The Chinese Communist Party continues to demand Taiwan to reunify with China.

The diary pages were received one day after Chou allegedly opened fire at a lunch gathering of elderly parishioners at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods. 

The newspaper didn’t report the contents of the diaries and nobody there apparently read through them before sending them to the police through the paper’s attorney, said an employee who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak openly. 


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