A man armed with two handguns opened fire at Taiwanese church banquet in southern California Sunday before he was overpowered and hogtied by congregants during the afternoon attack that left one victim dead and four people critically injured, authorities said. A fifth victim suffered minor injuries.
“We believe a group churchgoers detained him and hogtied his legs with an extension cord and confiscated at least two weapons from him,” Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said at an afternoon press conference following the bloodshed at the event hosted by the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, a congregation that gathers at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. “That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities.”
Asked if any churchgoers were wounded in the process of immobilizing the gunman, Hallock said it was too early to confirm exactly how many people were involved or injured in effort to restrain him. “One or more of the congregants did act quite heroically and jumped in and tried to do what they could to subdue the suspect immediately,” Hallock said. “It’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse. There were 30 to 40 people inside the church.”
Hallock said it wasn’t immediately clear if the unidentified suspect, who was not injured, had any connection to the congregation. “He’s believed to be an Asian male adult in his 60s. We don’t believe he lives in this area,” Hallock said. “At this time we do not know what the suspect’s motive may be or whether he had an intended target or whether this is even a hate-related incident.”
The shooting at the church campus about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles was reported at 1:26 p.m. Sunday, with first responders arriving at the scene within minutes to find the suspect already subdued, Hallock said. Authorities did not immediately identify the victims.
The luncheon was honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation, according to a Facebook statement from Tom Cramer, a co-executive of the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, a church administrative body. “Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting,” Cramer said.
The Sunday rampage followed just a day after 10 people were shot and killed in a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. That incident was quickly ruled a racially motivated hate crime after the white, 18-year-old gunman live-streamed himself hunting down mostly Black victims with an assault weapon with a racist slur written on the barrel.
“Today is a very dark day for the people of Laguna Woods and Orange County,” Lisa Bartlett, an Orange County supervisor, said at the Sunday afternoon press conference. “Just a day after the tragic and hate-filled actions that led to the senseless deaths of Americans at the Tops Friendly Markets [store] in Buffalo, New York, we too are now dealing with people shot in their place of worship.”