LOS ANGELES – One person is dead and five others were wounded – four critically – after a gunman entered a Southern California church during a Taiwanese congregation’s luncheon and opened fire, authorities said Sunday.
Police said the gunman, an Asian man in his 60s, was armed with two handguns when they entered the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods around 1:30 PT. The church, about 45 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, had finished its morning services and congregants were gathered for an afternoon luncheon, Jeff Hallock, of Orange County’s Undersheriff, said at a news conference.
As bullets were fired, a group of churchgoers pinned the gunman to the ground and hogtied his legs with an extension cord, and took his weapons, Hallock said.
“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect,” Hallock said. “They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities.”
When deputies arrived, they found the suspect hogtied and took him into custody. He was not injected.
Hallock said the suspect is not from the area and a motive isn’t clear. They said authorities are investigating why they targeted the church, which was hosting a large Taiwanese congregation at the time, and whether it might be considered a hate crime.
Linguists from the FBI were also being called to help in interviewing both witnesses and the suspect.
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It’s not clear whether the suspect, whose identity hasn’t been released, had any connection to the church or its congregation.
All of the victims were adults, according to the sheriff’s office.
About 30 to 40 people were inside the church at the time of the shooting, most of whom were Taiwanese, authorities said. The church hosts the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church for its services Sunday mornings at 10 am, the church’s website says.
The afternoon lunch reception was honoring a former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation that has services at Geneva, according to a statement from 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 those traumatized by this shooting,” the presbytery’s Tom Cramer said in a statement on Facebook.
The mass shooting was the latest high-profile attack to rock the nation this weekend. . On Saturday, 10 people were killed at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Authorities say the suspect in that attack, a white 18-year-old who wore tactical gear and livestreamed his rampage, was fueled by racism and hatred.
Laguna Woods, which spans just over three square miles, consists of mostly a retirement community with the majority of residents living in the gated community of Laguna Woods Village. More than 15,000 of the city’s nearly 18,000 residents live at Laguna Woods Village.
The developer created the community, formerly known as Leisure World, in the early 1960s, according to the city’s website. It became Orange County’s 32nd city when it incorporated in 1999. Neighboring cities include Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Hills.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter it is actively monitoring the church shooting and working with local law enforcement.
“No one should have the fear of going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, the community, and all those affected by this tragic event,” his office tweeted.
The incident occurred in an area with a cluster of houses of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a Jewish synagogue.
On its website, the Geneva Presbyterian Church describes its mission as “to remember, tell, and live the way of Jesus by being just, kind, and humble.”
“All are welcome here. Really, we mean that! … Geneva aspires to be an inclusive congregation worshiping, learning, connecting, giving and serving together. ”
Contributing: The Associated Press