California church leaders and shot survivors pray together
LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) — When a gunman started shooting at a luncheon at a Taiwanese-American church, Shoei Su said he froze.
The retired surveyor uses a walker and said he and many of the older community members didn’t immediately know what was going on. He said the gunman said nothing before shooting at churchgoers who were taking photos after lunch after last Sunday morning’s prayer service.
Nearly a week later, Su said he couldn’t sleep and was struggling to recover from the attack that killed one and injured five in the close-knit community in the Southern California community of Laguna Woods, which is made up mostly of retirees.
“We weren’t afraid then,” he says. “Later, when we think about it, we’re scared.”
His comments came as survivors, churchgoers and leaders of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church gathered for prayer Saturday and thanked members of the congregation for their support at an event on the Geneva Presbyterian Church campus, where the Taiwanese congregation shares a space.
Authorities say Las Vegas shooter David Chou, 68, was motivated by hatred for Taiwan, where he was born and raised, after his family was expelled from mainland China when the Communists took control. He had no connection with the church but spent about an hour with the participants, apparently to gain their trust so he could carry out his plan, authorities said.
Authorities said Chou had two 9mm handguns and three bags containing four Molotov cocktail-style incendiary devices and ammunition. They said he locked doors with chains and glued locks in place before he started shooting.
dr John Cheng, the 52-year-old son of a parishioner, accused him and was shot dead. He died at the scene, but his quick action disrupted the gunman, who was then struck by a chair thrown by former church pastor Billy Chang and jumped on by several parishioners, who tied him with an extension cord until the police arrived.
Cheng was the only person killed. Five others were injured, including four men aged 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman.
The community is still suffering from the attack. At Saturday’s event, churchgoers bowed their heads in prayer and some sobbed. Bouquets of sunflowers and roses were laid out with notes reading “RIP Dr. Cheng” stood.
Pastor Albany Lee, the church leader, who was away last Sunday, said he remembered meeting Cheng a few months ago when he was visiting the family after Cheng’s father died. He said Cheng, who doesn’t usually attend the Taiwanese congregation but took his mother there last week, sees him as more than a hero but one of two angels who worked with Chang to save the church.
On Sunday, his congregation resumes its weekly prayer service. Security is tight and no media coverage is allowed on the Geneva campus.
Lee said trauma specialists will be available to assist the community over the next few weeks and that despite the pain many are feeling, coming together for worship is crucial.
“I think this is the most important time we need to come together as a faith community,” he said. “We can help each other.”
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