California church mass shooter charged with hate crimes, faces death penalty

  • Hate crime enhancements have been added to five attempted murder charges against David Wenwei Chou, the Las Vegas man accused of opening fire at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on May 15.
  • Handwritten notes showed that Chou, 68, was “upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan,” according to authorities. Ahead of the shooting, he sent a document titled “Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence” to World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper.
  • Chou was born and raised in Taiwan after his family was forced out of mainland China. Those who knew him said his life was going south ahead of the shooting.
  • If convicted of his crimes, Chou will be eligible for the death penalty.

The Las Vegas man accused of firing multiple rounds at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, last month has been charged with hate crimes, prosecutors announced on Friday.

David Wenwei Chou, 68, allegedly opened fire at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in the 24000 block of El Toro Road just before 1:30 p.m. on May 15, targeting congregants during a luncheon held in honor of a former pastor visiting from Taiwan.

The shooting, which was witnessed by at least 30 people, left one dead and five others wounded. Chou, who was hogtied by church members, was arrested shortly after.

Citing handwritten notes, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes described the shooting as “a politically motivated hate incident,” saying Chou “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.” Chou was born and raised in the self-governed island after communists forced his family out of China.

David Wenwei Chou. Image via Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Those who knew Chou said his life was going south ahead of the incident. World Journal, a Chinese-language newspaper, received a document from Chou titled “Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence,” which appeared to reference Taiwan’s self-governance.

For his alleged crimes, Chou has been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. Last week, those five attempted murder charges received hate crime enhancements.

“Prosecutors filed an amended complaint this week to add a special circumstance that Chou intentionally killed his victim because of his race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin, and five enhancements of a hate crime for each of the five counts of attempted murder,” said the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Chou, who was also found to possess Molotov cocktail-like devices and extra ammunition, was also previously charged with four counts of possession of an explosive device, as well as felony enhancements of lying in wait and personal discharge of a firearm causing death. He faces the death penalty if convicted on all charges.

Members of the church have set up a GoFundMe page to help the victims. As of this writing, the effort has raised $193,728.

Chou is being held without bail at the Orange County Intake Release Center and is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 19.

 

Featured Image via CBS Los Angeles

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