Suspect in 2022 Mass Shooting Charged with Hate Crimes

May 12, 2023

A 69-year-old man accused in a mass shooting at a Taiwanese-American church last year has been indicted on dozens of federal hate, weapons and explosive crimes.

Federal prosecutors say David Chou of Nevada opened fire at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California on May 15, 2022, killing a doctor and wounding five other people.

“Chou allegedly acted because of the victims’ national origin and religion, and he intentionally obstructed the victims’ religious exercise,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.

He has been charged with 98 violations of federal law, including: 

  • 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, which resulted in the death of one person, included attempts to kill 44 others, and involved the use of a firearm and attempted use of explosives and fire;
  • 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by attacking the church congregants because of their actual or perceived Taiwanese national origin and Presbyterian faith;
  • One count of attempting to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce by means of fire and explosives;
  • One count of carrying explosives during the commission of a federal felony offense; and
  • Six counts of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.

The shooting at the church about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles began as members of the congregation were attending a luncheon to honor a former local pastor. 

Before entering the church, police say Chou chained the doors, put glue in the locks and placed three bags around the building containing various items, including additional ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-like devices.

All of the victims were of Asian heritage. Authorities have asserted that Chou, who they describe as a Las Vegas resident who was born in China, carried out the attack because he was upset over Chinese-Taiwanese tensions.

If convicted he faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole. He is being held in jail on state charges.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 646 mass shootings in 2022, defined as four or more people killed or injured by gunfire. There have been at least 214 mass shootings in the 132 days so far of 2023.

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