The Taiwan-born man charged with killing one person and wounding five others in a church shooting has been linked to a group with close ties to China’s ruling Communist Party, reports say.
The violence took place on Sunday, May 15 at the Geneva Presbyterian Church located in the city of Laguna Woods, Orange County — about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
68-year-old David Wenwei Chou, the alleged shooter, was arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree murder as well as five accounts of attempted murder for the attack, prosecutors in Orange County, California said on May 16.
Published reports now link Chou, a resident of Las Vegas working as a security guard, to a group that is part of a network of more than 30 alleged front groups directly tied to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department. The organization is known as a quasi-intelligence agency, according to a former State Department official.
The groups “all report directly to Beijing,” the former official told the Washington Times.
Although a motive for the crime was not immediately known, investigators have pointed out that the majority of those inside the church at the time of the shooting were of Taiwanese descent — prompting investigators to look into the shooting as a possible hate-crime targeting Taiwanese nationals.
The person killed in the shooting was identified as John Cheng, 52, a prominent doctor specializing in sports medicine at Laguna Niguel in California. Cheng is credited with potentially having saved many lives when he tackled Chou and tried to disarm him, allowing others to jump in and help.
Cheng, who leaves behind a wife and two children, was shot several times during the struggle and died at the scene.
Chou mailed several documents to a Taiwanese newspaper prior to attack
The World Journal, a Taiwanese broadsheet newspaper also reported on May 18 that Chou had mailed seven copies of photocopied documents and flash drives to its office in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park.
The documents were titled “Diary of an Angel of Destroying Independence,” but the newspaper did not report its contents. The media outlet turned the documents over to the police, according to its report. A photo accompanying the report showed multiple stacks of documents and flash drives and that the postage cost $16.10, USA Today reported.
Though Chou was born in Taiwan — officially the Republic of China (ROC) — in 1953, his family were among the millions of people evacuated from mainland China as the ROC fought a losing civil war with communist rebels and had to re-establish themselves.
While Taiwan is officially governed as the ROC that once ruled all of China, a trend towards exclusively Taiwanese identity has been growing since the 1990s. A majority of poll respondents now say they are not Chinese and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) currently heads the government.
Meanwhile, the opposition Kuomintang is seen as allied with the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC), which does not recognize the ROC or an independent Taiwan, and vows to “retake” the island by any means necessary, even if that means utilizing military force.
Chou is currently being held on a $1 million bail in Orange County, California.