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Doctor, Baylor Grad ‘Sacrificed Himself’ To Save Others During Racially Motivated Church Shooting

Church Shooting
Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Steinle displays a photo of Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old victim who was killed in Sunday’s shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church, during a news conference in Santa Ana, Calif., Monday, May 16, 2022. Authorities say a gunman in a deadly attack at the church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

New details are emerging about Sunday’s fatal shooting at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Southern California. Authorities say the 68-year-old gunman, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Taiwan, was spurred to carry out the church shooting by hatred toward Taiwan. But he had no known direct connections to the congregation, which meets at Geneva Presbyterian in Laguna Woods.

A federal hate-crimes investigation is underway, and the suspect is being held on $1 million bail.

Church Shooting: Suspected Gunman’s ‘Absolute Bias’ Brought ‘Evil’ to Church

Officials say the suspect drove from his Las Vegas home to California Saturday, intent on killing everyone at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church. Before his church shooting spree, which took place during a post-worship luncheon, the suspect hid explosive devices in the building, chained doors, and glued keyholes shut. Then he mingled for an hour among attendees, most of whom were elderly.

When gunshots erupted, the church’s former pastor—who was being honored at the luncheon—hit the suspect with a chair. Churchgoers were then able to tie up the gunman until police arrived. But during the chaos, the suspect’s bullets killed one person, Dr. John Cheng, and injured five others.

At a press conference Monday, Sheriff Don Barnes described the incident as “a meeting of good versus evil.” And Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who indicated the suspect had “an absolute bias” against Taiwan and Taiwanese people, said, “I will tell you that evil was in that church.”

Both men praised the heroism of Dr. Cheng, a 52-year-old sports-medicine physician with martial-arts training. His preparedness and actions, Barnes says, saved “upwards of dozens” of lives. Spitzer says the doctor “sacrificed himself so that others could live,” adding, “That irony in a church is not lost on me.”

Baylor Grad Dr. John Cheng Was a ‘Protector’

Dr. Cheng, who is survived by a wife and two children, is a 1991 graduate of Baylor University. On Monday the school tweeted: “Dr. John Cheng died Sunday, literally taking the bullet for fellow congregants while heroically tackling the gunman at an Orange County church. … Please join us in praying for those who knew & loved him.”