A man accused of killing one person and injuring five others at a Presbyterian church in Taiwan on May 15 has been charged with aggravated manslaughter, prosecutors said Friday.
David Wenwei Chou, 68, is charged with murder, attempted murder and other serious offenses in connection with last month’s shooting.
This week, Orange County prosecutors added a heinous crime to the murder charge because they believe John Cheng’s murder was motivated by race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.
Hate crime corrections were also added to each of the five crimes of attempted murder.
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If convicted, Chaula could face up to the death penalty for all charges, including four counts of possession of an explosive device, lying in wait and firing a personal gun that led to his death.
Last month, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes called the shooting a “politically motivated hate incident,” and Chou is believed to have “specifically targeted the Taiwanese community.”
Barnes said he left notes in his car, written in Chinese, saying he did not believe Taiwan should be independent of China. The sheriff said he was arguing with the Taiwanese people about how the man had treated them while living in Taiwan.
Prosecutors say Chow entered the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, where the Irwin Taiwan Presbyterian Church rented space, two handguns, several backpacks with extra magazines and four Molotov cocktail equipment.
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He hid his backpack in a banquet hall in the church and closed several doors.
After Chow fired at the congregation, Cheng tried to fight back but was shot dead. Five other people were shot in the incident, but all survived.
After Cheng’s attempts to stop Chau, Pastor Billy Chang, who had come to meet him, ran to the gunman and hit him with a chair. Chang was visiting the church for the first time since moving to Taiwan two years ago.
According to officials and eyewitnesses, Chang said he knocked Chaula to the ground before he could be hit by an electric cord with the help of other residents.
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“He’s scared. I don’t think anyone will attack him,” Chang told the Los Angeles Times.