California shooting: Pastor and congregants narrow down suspect and prevent greater drama

California shooting: Pastor and congregants narrow down suspect and prevent greater drama

A patrol vehicle is seen outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., after a fatal shooting (AP Photo/Damián Dovarganes)

Man who opened fire during lunch at Southern California church he killed one person and injured five elderly people before a pastor hit the attacker on the head with a chair and congregants bound him with electric cords.

jerry chen He had just walked into the church common room kitchen around 1.30pm on Sunday when he heard the gunshots.

Chen, 72, a longtime member of the Irvine Taiwan Presbyterian Church who attends Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, he glanced around the corner and saw others screaming, running and hiding under tables.

“I knew someone was shooting” mentioned. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 9-1-1.

Chen, who called 911 from the church parking lot, said he was so shocked he couldn’t tell the operator where he was. “I had to ask someone else for the address”mentioned.

The identity of the shooter is not yet known (AP/Damian Dovarganes)
The identity of the shooter is not yet known (AP/Damian Dovarganes)

Chen said that a group of about 40 parishioners had gathered in the fellowship hall for lunch after a morning service to welcome back his former pastor billy changwho had served the church for 20 years and was a valued and respected member of the community. Chang returned to Taiwan two years ago. It was his first time in the United States, Chen said.

“Everyone had just finished lunch”, mentioned. “They were taking pictures with Pastor Chang. I had just finished my lunch and went to the kitchen. It was then that he heard the shots and fled.

Soon after, Chen said he heard the details of what happened. Members of the congregation told Chen that when the shooter stopped to reload, Pastor Chang hit him on the head with a chair while others moved quickly to grab his gun. Then they subdued and tied him upmentioned.

“This group of parishioners displayed what we believe to be exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to apprehend the suspect.  They certainly avoided additional injuries and deaths,” the county deputy said.  (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)
“This group of parishioners displayed what we believe to be exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to apprehend the suspect. They certainly avoided additional injuries and deaths,” the county deputy said. (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)

“It was amazing to see how brave (Chang) and the others were,” mentioned. “It’s very sad. I never thought something like this would happen in my church, in my community.

Most of the church members are elderly and highly educated Taiwanese immigrants, Chen said. “We are mostly retired and the average age of our church is 80”he explained.

Orange County Deputy Jeff Hallock praised the quick work of parishioners to apprehend the shooter.

“This group of parishioners displayed what we believe to be exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to apprehend the suspect. They certainly avoided further injuries and deaths.” Hallock said. “I think it’s safe to say that if people hadn’t intervened, it could have been a lot worse.”

Orange County sheriff's deputies verify the identity of a person trying to gain access to a church parking lot after the fatal shooting (AP Photo/Damián Dovarganes)
Orange County sheriff’s deputies verify the identity of a person trying to gain access to a church parking lot after the fatal shooting (AP Photo/Damián Dovarganes)

Laguna Woods was built as a community for senior citizens and later became a town. More than 80% of residents in the city of 18,000 about 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles are at least 65 years old. The shooting happened in an area with a cluster of places of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a Jewish synagogue.

The investigation was in its early stages, Hallock said. He said the many unanswered questions include whether the shooter attended a church service, whether church members knew him and how many shots were fired.

Most of the people inside the church at the time were believed to be of Taiwanese descent, said Carrie Braun, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.

A sign for the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods after a fatal shooting (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)
A sign for the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods after a fatal shooting (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)

Four men were among those injured by bullets. 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old female, the sheriff’s department said. Authorities initially said only four of the five surviving victims were shot.

The afternoon lunch reception was to honor a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation, according to a statement from the Los Ranchos Presbytery, an administrative body of the church.

“Please keep the leaders of the Taiwanese congregation in your prayers. and Geneva as they care for those traumatized by this shooting,” Tom Cramer of the rectory said in a statement on Facebook.

governor’s office Gavin Newsom he said on Twitter that he was monitoring the situation closely.

Police and firefighters on site
Police and firefighters on site

“No one should be afraid to go to their place of worship. Our hearts go out to the victims, the community and everyone affected by this tragic event,” the tweet read.

The deadliest shooting inside a church took place in 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church, killing more than two dozen people.

In 2015, Dylann Roof fired dozens of bullets during the closing prayer for a 2015 Bible study session at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine members of the black congregation were killed in the racist violence and Roof became the first person in the United States to be sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. His appeal remains before the Supreme Court.

(with information from AP)

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