The 68-year-old man suspected of shooting up a Taiwanese American church in California that left one person dead and a few others wounded has been charged with hate crimes by prosecutors.
David Chou, a 68-year-old Chinese American resident of Las Vegas, was arrested last month after he allegedly entered Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and opened fire.
The Office of the District Attorney of Orange County announced last week that they have amended the complaint to add hate crime allegations, finding that "Chou intentionally killed his victim because of his race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin."
"After a review of additional evidence in this case, the Orange County District Attorney's Office has filed an amended criminal complaint to include hate crime allegations," said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.
Chou is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 19 and will be held without bail. If convicted, Chou could be sentenced to death.
On May 15, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Chou went to Geneva Presbyterian Church and opened fire on the Taiwanese congregation as church members were holding a reception for a pastor who had recently returned from Taiwan. The shooter secured the doors before attacking the congregants, injuring five and killing a sixth. He was overpowered and restrained by the surviving members of the congregation.
Even before the addition of hate crime charges against Chou, authorities contended that he carried out the mass shooting because he was "upset about political tensions involving China and Taiwan."
Tensions between China and Taiwan stem from China's view of the island as a part of the People's Republic of China while leaders of the democratically elected government of Taiwan insist that it is a sovereign state.
Don Barnes, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner, stated last month that the "tragic incident was fueled by politically motivated hate," which "is something we do not tolerate."
Describing Orange County as "a community that celebrates diversity and takes pride in being a place people feel safe to worship, work and live," Barnes stressed that "While someone from outside our community has attempted to diminish these ideals through an act of violence, we remain united in our commitment to tolerance and acceptance."
Barnes commended 52-year-old Dr. John Cheng, the lone fatality, who tackled the shooter while sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, allowing others to disarm the suspect.
"Dr. Cheng was a loving family man, dedicated doctor and a beloved member of our community, and we send our deepest condolences to all who knew him," he said.
Peter Wu is the pastor of Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Greater St. Louis, a Missouri-based congregation that, like the Laguna Woods congregation, belongs to Presbyterian Church (USA).
In an interview with The Christian Post last month, Wu said his congregation has some personal ties to the Laguna Woods congregation, with some of the church's members having relatives and friends who attend Geneva Presbyterian Church.
"Most of our church members are saddened, grieving," Wu said, adding that most are "concerned with what happened to the shooting incident."
Despite the sadness and concerns, Wu sees an opportunity amid the tragedy to have Chinese and Taiwanese churches in the U.S. come together in unity.
"It would be wonderful if Chinese-American churches can pray for the victims and incident in response to the Laguna Woods shooting," he maintained.
"I believe this incident can create an opportunity for conversation and collaboration between Chinese and Taiwanese churches in the United States."