David Chou, the suspect in last Sunday’s shooting at a California church that left one dead and five wounded, may face the death penalty, authorities said Tuesday.
Chou was charged with murder, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who said at a press conference that if convicted he would face life in prison or the death penalty.
He noted that the circumstances under which the defendant perpetrated the attack give the murder charge an aggravating factor that could lead to capital punishment.
He detailed that the suspect blended in among his victims and waited for the right moment to attack them.
Spitzer, a Republican, has criticized the moratorium on the death penalty imposed in 2019 by California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom.
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The prosecutor said that in addition to the first-degree murder charge Chou, 68, faces charges of attempted murder and possession of destructive devices with the intent to kill or harm.
David Chou, a Chinese immigrant, and resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, is accused of shooting six people at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church in Laguna Woods, Orange County.
Don Barnes, head of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said Monday that early investigations point to it being a politically motivated hate incident motivated by tensions between China and Taiwan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a possible hate crime investigation in connection with the shooting, and Spitzer said his office is working with the federal agency to analyze that hypothesis, and, if confirmed, add it to the charges.
According to investigations, before the shooting, Chou, a naturalized American, blocked the exits of the church to prevent people from escaping. It is estimated that there were about 50 people, mostly senior citizens.
Authorities said that the same parishioners managed to detain and subdue the man, who was carrying two guns. Several cartridges, Molotov cocktails, and incendiary devices were also found.
David Chou worked as a security guard in Las Vegas, which allowed him to purchase the weapons legally.
Physician John Cheng, 53, was identified as the person who lost his life in the shooting while trying to defend the rest of the parishioners.
The wounded are an 86-year-old woman and four men aged 92, 82, 75, and 66.