Hero pastor hit Orange County gunman with a chair and churchgoers hogtied him and seized weapons

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A hero pastor at a Taiwanese church in Orange County hit a gunman over the head with a chair while his elderly congregants hogtied him and confiscated his weapons after he went on a shooting spree on Sunday afternoon, killing one and injuring five.

The man opened fire during a lunch reception at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, southern California, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles at 1.30pm on Sunday. A motive for the shooting has not yet been disclosed, but investigators don’t believe the gunman, an Asian man in his 60s whose name was not immediately released, lives in the community.

Longtime congregant at Irvine Jerry Chen, 72 had just stepped into the kitchen of his church’s fellowship hall when he heard the gunshots and saw church members screaming, running and ducking under tables.

‘I knew someone was shooting,’ he said. ‘I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911.’ 

Taiwanese hero pastor Billy Chang (pictured) hit a gunman with a chair while elderly congregants hogtied him after a shooting at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church on Sunday, leaving one dead and injuring five

Officials said the shooting ended after the gunman killed one man and wounded five senior citizens before worshippers hog-tied his legs with an electrical cord until deputies arrived. Four of the five people wounded suffered critical gunshot injuries.

Chen, who called emergency services from the church’s parking lot, said he was in such a state of shock that he was unable to tell the operator his location. ‘I had to ask someone else for the address,’ he said.

Chen said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang, who had served the church for 20 years and was a beloved and respected community member. Chang moved back to Taiwan two years ago. This was his first time back stateside, Chen said.

Everyone had just finished lunch – a special bento box with teriyaki chicken. Chen said: ‘They were taking photos with Pastor Chang. I had just finished my lunch and went into the kitchen.’ That was when he heard the gunshots and ran out.

Soon afterwards, Chen said he heard the details of what happened inside from others who came out. Fellow congregants told him that when the gunman stopped to reload, Pastor Chang hit him on the head with a chair while others moved quickly to grab his gun. They then subdued him and tied him up.

‘It was amazing how brave (Chang) and the others were,’ he said. ‘This is just so sad. I never, ever thought something like this would happen in my church, in my community.’

Most of the church’s members are elderly, highly educated Taiwanese immigrants, Cheng said. ‘We’re mostly retirees and the average age of our church is 80.’ 

The congregation were at the hall for a luncheon after morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang (pictured front centre, fourth from right) back after returning to the US from Taiwan for the first time in two years

The congregation were at the hall for a luncheon after morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang (pictured front centre, fourth from right) back after returning to the US from Taiwan for the first time in two years

Chen said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang (pictured centre, black suit), who had served the church for 20 years and was a beloved and respected community member. Chang moved back to Taiwan two years ago. This was his first time back stateside. Some of the congregation is pictured

Chen said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang (pictured centre, black suit), who had served the church for 20 years and was a beloved and respected community member. Chang moved back to Taiwan two years ago. This was his first time back stateside. Some of the congregation is pictured

Hero pastor Billy Chang at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods (pictured) hit gunman with a chair while elderly congregants hogtied him after shooting spree on Sunday afternoon, leaving one dead and injuring five

Hero pastor Billy Chang at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods (pictured) hit gunman with a chair while elderly congregants hogtied him after shooting spree on Sunday afternoon, leaving one dead and injuring five

The man opened fire during a lunch reception at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, southern California, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles at 1.30pm on Sunday. A motive for the shooting has not yet been disclosed, but investigators don't believe the gunman, an Asian man in his 60s whose name was not immediately released, lives in the community

The man opened fire during a lunch reception at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, southern California, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles at 1.30pm on Sunday. A motive for the shooting has not yet been disclosed, but investigators don’t believe the gunman, an Asian man in his 60s whose name was not immediately released, lives in the community

A number of people have been shot at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods

Longtime congregant at Irvine Jerry Chen, 72 had just stepped into the kitchen of his church's fellowship hall when he heard the gunshots and saw church members screaming, running and ducking under tables

Longtime congregant at Irvine Jerry Chen, 72 had just stepped into the kitchen of his church’s fellowship hall when he heard the gunshots and saw church members screaming, running and ducking under tables

Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday after a fatal shooting

Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday after a fatal shooting

Those wounded by gunshots included four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said. Authorities originally said only four of the five surviving victims had been shot.

It is understood that the gunman, who is now in police custody, got into the church by saying he had attended services before, Chen said.

About 40 parishioners witnessed the violence – but those who were present also helped to prevent further bloodshed by overpowering the shooter and tying him up. 

The group reportedly confiscated his weapons and restrained him until police arrived on the scene. 

Police say those involved ‘showed exceptional heroism and bravery in detaining the suspect.’

‘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,’ Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said. ‘I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.’ 

Two handguns were found on the shooter and were quickly removed. 

It’s not clear exactly how the parishioners were able to subdue the man, but as soon as they had him on the ground, they tied his arms and legs with electrical or extension cords, Hallock explained. 

One person suffered fatal wounds and died at the scene at the church. Four of the other victims were critically wounded – while a fifth suffered minor injuries. 

All of the victims were adults and have been revealed to be four men aged 66, 75, 82 and 92 and one woman, aged 86.

Two of them were taken to Providence Mission Hospital, the medical center confirmed. Another victim was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center, and two more were transported to Orange County Global Medical Center, including a 92-year-old man who was grazed by a bullet.

The majority of those inside the church were believed to be of Taiwanese descent and had gathered to honor a former pastor of the church with a lunch reception after Sunday morning’s service.

A motive for the shooting, which took place in an auditorium called Simpson Hall, rather than the main auditorium where services are normally held, wasn’t immediately known – but investigators said they don’t believe the gunman lives in the community.

Sheriff John Mina said police were still working to determine a motive and do not know whether it was a ‘hate-related’ incident. 

Mina also said that it was not known whether the suspect had any connections to the church or whether any victims had been targeted. 

‘Until we do that, we won’t really have a good idea if he was known to the congregants,’ Hallock said. 

All manner of emergency vehicles could be seen outsider the church on Sunday afternoon

All manner of emergency vehicles could be seen outsider the church on Sunday afternoon

Undersheriff Jeff Hallock is pictured speaking to members of the media following the Sunday shooting

Undersheriff Jeff Hallock is pictured speaking to members of the media following the Sunday shooting 

 

The Orange County Sheriff gave details of what was unfolding on Sunday afternoon on Twitter

The Orange County Sheriff gave details of what was unfolding on Sunday afternoon on Twitter

The shooting happened in the small city of Laguna Woods, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles

The shooting happened in the small city of Laguna Woods, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles

The shooting occurred at around 1:25pm on Sunday in the retirement community of Laguna Woods

The shooting occurred at around 1:25pm on Sunday in the retirement community of Laguna Woods

Orange County Sheriff's officers stand patrol on the grounds of the Geneva Presbyterian Church

Orange County Sheriff’s officers stand patrol on the grounds of the Geneva Presbyterian Church

A Chaplain arrives at the Geneva Presbyterian Church shooting where one person was killed and others wounded

A Chaplain arrives at the Geneva Presbyterian Church shooting where one person was killed and others wounded

A lone bystander views the entrance of the Geneva Presbyterian Church where yellow police tape marks the location of the shooting

A lone bystander views the entrance of the Geneva Presbyterian Church where yellow police tape marks the location of the shooting

The Chaplain crossing the police line yellow tape marking the location of the shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church

The Chaplain crossing the police line yellow tape marking the location of the shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church

An Orange County deputy sheriff with yellow crime scene tape at Geneva Presbyterian Church

An Orange County deputy sheriff with yellow crime scene tape at Geneva Presbyterian Church

Church supporters bring flowers to the Geneva Presbysterian Church were a gunman killed a person and wounded others

Church supporters bring flowers to the Geneva Presbysterian Church were a gunman killed a person and wounded others

Some men could be seen bringing flowers in tribute at the person who was killed during Sunday's shooting

Some men could be seen bringing flowers in tribute at the person who was killed during Sunday’s shooting

Investigators from the the FBI, ATF together with Orange County law enforcement are looking at many factors, including whether the attack could be a hate crime and whether the gunman was known to the church community.

‘Initial reports indicate that one person was killed, and several others were severely injured. Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting. In your mercy, O Lord, we pray.’ a statement from the diocese read.

The surrounding city of 18,000 consists of Laguna Woods Village, a large retirement community for people 55 and older formerly known as Leisure World. More than 80% of residents in the city are at least 65 years old, according to demographic data.

Cynthia Conners, the mayor pro tem in Laguna Woods, said on Sunday that she is a member of the church and had attended services that morning. A Taiwanese group typically use the church later in the morning. 

‘I could not even imagine something like this could happen here,’ said Charlotte Hseih, a church organist to the New York Times. ‘I’m just as shocked as anybody.’ 

A motive for the shooting, which took place in an auditorium called Simpson Hall, rather than the main auditorium where services are normally held, wasn't immediately known - but investigators said they don't believe the gunman lives in the community (some of the congregation is pictured, with pastor Billy Chang pictured from front row, eight from right)

A motive for the shooting, which took place in an auditorium called Simpson Hall, rather than the main auditorium where services are normally held, wasn’t immediately known – but investigators said they don’t believe the gunman lives in the community (some of the congregation is pictured, with pastor Billy Chang pictured from front row, eight from right)

Orange County Sheriff's deputies check the identification of a person trying to gain access to a parking lot of the church

Orange County Sheriff’s deputies check the identification of a person trying to gain access to a parking lot of the church

One person was killedand four people were "critically" injured in a shooting at the church near Los Angeles

One person was killedand four people were ‘critically’ injured in a shooting at the church near Los Angeles

Church goers are seen as police investigate after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Many of those present were of Taiwanese descent

Church goers are seen as police investigate after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Many of those present were of Taiwanese descent

A police officer leads a bomb canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in a search for devices

A police officer leads a bomb canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in a search for devices

Police are seen investigating after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods

Police are seen investigating after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods

Jeff Hallock, Orange County Sheriff's Department undersheriff speaks to the media after the deadly shooting

Jeff Hallock, Orange County Sheriff’s Department undersheriff speaks to the media after the deadly shooting

Members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department were quickly on the scene

Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were quickly on the scene 

An Orange County Sheriff's deputy is seen at the parking lot of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods putting up crime scene tape

An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy is seen at the parking lot of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods putting up crime scene tape

A police officer leads a canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church which eft one person dead, four critically wounded, and one with minor injuries

A police officer leads a canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church which eft one person dead, four critically wounded, and one with minor injuries

Police investigate the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Police investigate the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Law enforcement agencies from across the spectrum including the ATF, FBI and Orange County Sheriff's Dept. were on site

Law enforcement agencies from across the spectrum including the ATF, FBI and Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. were on site

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

‘No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,’ the tweet said.

‘This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo,’ said U.S. Rep Katie Porter, whose district includes Laguna Woods. ‘This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.’ 

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, 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 worshipping, learning, connecting, giving and serving together.’

Sandria Chou stands in front of police tape waiting for her parents following a shooting that took place on Sunday

Sandria Chou stands in front of police tape waiting for her parents following a shooting that took place on Sunday

Police cars are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Police cars are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Police tape is seen after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Police tape is seen after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

The Geneva Presbyterian Church is pictured after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods, California

The Geneva Presbyterian Church is pictured after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods, California

Law enforcement officers are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

Law enforcement officers are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California

A number of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances could be seen on scene outside the church

A number of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances could be seen on scene outside the church 

A firetruck is seen outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods

A firetruck is seen outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods

A passing driver captured images of a number of a fire engines that were on site following the shooting

A passing driver captured images of a number of a fire engines that were on site following the shooting

A helicopter could be seen racing towards the scene on footage shared on Facebook

A helicopter could be seen racing towards the scene on footage shared on Facebook

One person caught in traffic close to the church tweeted a picture of the scene on Sunday lunchtime

One person caught in traffic close to the church tweeted a picture of the scene on Sunday lunchtime 

California Governor Gavin Newsom's office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation. 'No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,' the tweet said

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation. ‘No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,’ the tweet said

It was the 18th mass shooting in California so far this year and the second of the weekend in the United States, which has been plagued with gun violence in recent years.

On Saturday a white supremacist killed 10 people during a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo.  

Payton Gendron, 18, is alleged to have shot upwards of 13 people, the majority of whom were black. 

Authorities say they suspect it was a racially-driven attack.

The shooter is also believed to have livestreamed the rampage. Gendron pled not guilty to first-degree murder.

He’s due back in court on Thursday, and is currently on suicide watch.

Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting that took place in the early afternoon in Laguna Woods

Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting that took place in the early afternoon in Laguna Woods

Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting on Sunday afternoon

Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting on Sunday afternoon

The Geneva Presbyterian Church at 24301 El Toro Rd, Laguna Woods, California is pictured on the church's Facebook page.

The Geneva Presbyterian Church at 24301 El Toro Rd, Laguna Woods, California is pictured on the church’s Facebook page.

A file photo of how the church normally looks, as pictured from its Facebook page

A file photo of how the church normally looks, as pictured from its Facebook page

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