California church shooting suspect makes court appearance

David Wenwei Chou appears in court Friday, June 10, 2022, in Santa Ana, Calif. (James Schaeffer ...

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Las Vegas man accused of carrying out a fatal mass shooting at a Southern California church will remain in custody without bail, an Orange County judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court Judge Cynthia Herrera then postponed the arraignment for 68-year-old David Wenwei Chou until Aug. 19.

Chou is accused of shooting six people, killing one, during the May 15 attack at the Taiwanese church, which authorities have said was fueled by his political hatred of the Taiwanese community.

The suspect appeared in court Friday wearing a lime-green jail jumpsuit, and he used a Mandarin interpreter during the two-minute hearing.

Officials initially said Chou was a Chinese national and U.S. citizen, but the Orange County Sheriff’s Office later stated that it had misspoken about his nationality, and that Chou had told investigators he was born and raised in Taiwan.

“According to the suspect’s writings that have been interpreted,” the Sheriff’s Office statement read, “he fostered a grievance against the Taiwanese community and he was upset about the political tensions between China and Taiwan.”

Sports medicine Dr. John Cheng, 52, was killed in the attack, while five others were hospitalized, officials have said.

The day before the shooting, Chou drove about 275 miles from Las Vegas to the community of Laguna Woods, investigators have said. Two semi-automatic 9 mm guns investigators recovered from the scene were legally purchased in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2017, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has said Chou had no known ties to any organized religion and likely chose the Southern California church as a target due to its proximity to Las Vegas.

Authorities have said Chou sat through a church service before attending a luncheon in honor of a former pastor, mingling with parishioners for about 40 minutes before chaining and nailing shut exit doors, The Associated Press reported.

The parishioners, including Cheng, fought back as Chou opened fire. The shooter was hogtied before police arrived, the Orange County district attorney’s office has said.

Investigators discovered bags Chou allegedly hid in the church. They were filled with additional loaded magazines and incendiary devices that resembled Molotov cocktails.

Orange County prosecutors have charged Chou with murder, which includes enhancements of discharging a firearm resulting in death and lying in wait. He also faces counts of attempted premeditated murder and possession of an explosive device.

If convicted of the charges, Chou could face the death penalty, the district attorney’s office has said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.