A man opened fire during a lunch reception at a Southern California church on Sunday in what a sheriff’s officer called an act of “extraordinary valor and bravery”, killing one person and killing five senior citizens from parishioners. Wounded before being stopped by.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said four of the five people injured during the violence at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in downtown Laguna Woods suffered serious injuries.
Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said the suspect in the shooting, an Asian man in his 60s, was in custody and the deputy recovered two grenades. He said the cause of the shooting was not immediately known, but investigators believe the gunman lived in the community.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said most of the church’s people at the time were believed to be of Taiwanese descent.
Officials said 30 to 40 members of the Irwin Taiwanese Presbyterian Church had gathered for lunch after an early morning church service in Geneva, when the shots fired shortly before 1:30 p.m. When the delegates arrived, the parishioners took the gunman into custody with his neck tied.
“That group of church-goers displayed what we believe is extraordinary valor and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” Hallock said. It’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.”
Among the injured victims were four Asian men, aged 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said. Officials originally said that only four of the five surviving victims had been shot.
Details about the person killed were not immediately given.
Hallock said the investigation was in its early stages. He said many unanswered questions included whether the attacker had attended church service, if he knew the church members, and how many shots were fired.
According to a statement from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, the church’s administrative body, the lunch reception was honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation.
“Please keep the congregation of Taiwan and the leadership of Geneva in your prayers as they care for the victims of this shooting,” Tom Cramer of the Presbytery said in a statement on Facebook.
Federal agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded. The FBI also sent agents to the scene to assist the sheriff.
Laguna Woods was created as a senior living community and later became a town. In a city of 18,000 people about 80 kilometers southeast of Los Angeles, more than 80% of its residents are at least 65.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that it was closely monitoring the situation.
“No one should be afraid to go to his place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, the community and all those affected by this tragic incident.”
The incident took place in an area with a cluster of houses of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a Jewish synagogue.
On its website, the Geneva Presbyterian Church describes its mission as “to remember, tell and live the way of Jesus by being just, merciful and humble”.
“Everyone is welcome here. Really, we mean it! Geneva aspires to be an inclusive church that worships, learns, connects, gives and serves together.”
The shooting comes a day after an 18-year-old man was shot and killed at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
“This is disturbing and disturbing news, especially less than a day after the mass shooting in Buffalo,” said US 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.”