Man Killed in California Church 'Charged' Alleged Mass Shooter to Stop Him

Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old physician who was killed during a mass shooting at a California church this weekend, attempted to disarm the alleged gunman by charging toward him and allowing others to flee the scene.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department confirmed Cheng's identity on Monday, and lauded his efforts as being heroic. Five other people were injured in the shooting when 68-year-old David Wenwei Chou allegedly entered a Sunday gathering at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and opened fire.

The shooting is now being investigated by a police as a "politically motivated hate incident," stemming from tensions between China and Taiwan. Chou, a U.S. citizen born in China, is believed to have targeted the church because it was holding a luncheon on behalf of a local Taiwanese congregation, police said Monday.

Many of those in attendance were of Taiwanese descent, and several individuals were elderly. Police said Cheng heroically tried to thwart Chou in order to help the more vulnerable churchgoers escape.

California church shooting
Police vehicles are parked near the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church on May 15, 2022 in Laguna Woods, California. Mario Tama/Getty Images

"Dr. Cheng, understanding that there were elderly [people] everywhere and they couldn't get out of the premises because the doors had been chained after others had been shot, he took it upon himself to charge across the room and to do everything he could to disable the assailant," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said during a press conference Monday, according to Fox 11.

"He sacrificed himself so that others could live. That irony in a church is not lost on me," he added.

The sheriff's department also noted that "without the actions of Dr. Cheng, there is no doubt there would be numerous other deaths," NBC Los Angeles reported. Cheng leaves behind a wife and two children, according to police.

In addition to Cheng's efforts, members of the church were able to detain Chou and "hog-tie" his legs with an extension cord. When police arrived at the scene on Sunday, at least two of Chou's weapons had already been confiscated.

"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," police said on Sunday.

Each of the other victims who were injured in the shooting were of Asian descent and ranged in age from 66 to 92 years old, according to police. Authorities do not believe Chou had any previous ties to the church or its congregants, but noted that things could change as the investigation continues.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen throughout the past several months. Taiwan views itself as an independent nation, but China insists it is part of its own territory.