SANTA ANA, Calif. (TCD) — A man accused of opening fire inside a Taiwanese church last year, killing one person and injuring several others, is now facing nearly 100 federal hate crimes in addition to the dozens of other charges he faces on a local level.
On Thursday, May 11, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced prosecutors are charging David Chou with 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building, one count of carrying explosives during the commission of a federal felony, and six counts of using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
The charges relate to a May 15, 2022, shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church when Chou allegedly fatally shot one person and wounded five more. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said he fired shots at the churchgoers “because of the victims’ national origin and religion.”
According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Chou allegedly walked into the church with backpacks containing explosives, extra ammo, and guns. He reportedly locked the doors so parishioners could not leave when the shooting started. Dr. John Cheng was killed while trying to fight Chou. Several people held Chou down with an electrical cord until deputies arrived.
The victims ranged in age from 66 to 92 years old.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office initially charged Chou with special circumstances murder and lying in wait, and announced hate crimes enhancements in June 2022 for the one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. He is also being charged with four counts of possession of an explosive device and felony enhancements of lying in wait and personal discharge of a firearm causing death.
Chou could face the death penalty or up to life in prison if convicted.
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