Asian-American man, 68, pleads not guilty to killing doctor and injuring five others at church

Asian-American man, 68, pleads not guilty to killing doctor and injuring five others at church

A Las Vegas man accused of hating Taiwan for killing a doctor and five others over lunch at a Southern California church pleaded not guilty on Friday.

David Chou, 68, has been charged with murder after he opened fire on a Taiwanese congregation gathered at a church in Laguna Woods, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, in May.

dr John Cheng, 52, was killed trying to stop Chou, whose actions were motivated by “Sino-Taiwan political tensions.” Five others were injured but survived their injuries.

Chou appeared in court on August 19 behind a metal-like cage that separated him from others. The 68-year-old wore glasses, a face mask and yellow overalls. He wore a headset and spoke through a Mandarin interpreter.

The shooter struggled to understand what the judge was telling him – what he was conveying to the interpreter.

He was held without bail at Theo Lacy Jail by Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera and will appear again in court on October 21 for a pretrial hearing.

David Chou, 68, pleaded not guilty Friday to Dr. Killing John Cheng, 52, and injuring five others during a luncheon after a Taiwanese church service in Laguna Hills, California in May

Chou, who is from Las Vegas, appeared in court behind a metal-like cage on August 19.  A Mandarin interpreter wore a headset and translated his words to the judge

Chou, who is from Las Vegas, appeared in court behind a metal-like cage on August 19. A Mandarin interpreter wore a headset and translated his words to the judge

Chou first appeared in court after being motivated to commit the mass shooting out of hatred for Taiwan

Chou first appeared in court after being motivated to commit the mass shooting out of hatred for Taiwan

Defense attorney Tania Vallego appeared in court with Chou, who is said to be charged with murder

Defense attorney Tania Vallego appeared in court with Chou, who is said to be charged with murder

John Cheng was shot dead in Sunday's California church shooting.  Cheng tried to stop the gunman when he was hit

John Cheng was shot dead in Sunday’s California church shooting. Cheng tried to stop the gunman when he was hit

The shooting happened in the small town of Laguna Woods, about 55 miles south of Los Angeles

The shooting happened in the small town of Laguna Woods, about 55 miles south of Los Angeles

The Taiwanese congregation met at Geneva Presbyterian Church for a Sunday service

The Taiwanese congregation met at Geneva Presbyterian Church for a Sunday service

District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Chou was motivated by hatred for Taiwan, where he was born, after his family was driven from mainland China when the Communists gained the upper hand in a civil war that ended in 1949.

He apparently picked the church at random on May 15 and didn’t know anyone there before driving from Las Vegas to California on Saturday, authorities said.

Authorities said Chou sat through a church service before attending a luncheon honoring a former pastor, where he mingled with parishioners for about 40 minutes before chaining and nailing exit doors and opening fire.

As gunshots erupted, Dr. John Cheng, 52, attacked Chou and was shot dead, but authorities said he disrupted the attack and potentially saved dozens of lives.

Former pastor Billy Chang then picked up a chair and threw it at Chou, who fell to the ground. Chang said he charged at Chou, and several parishioners held Chou and tied him up.

Chou was armed with two legally purchased 9mm handguns and concealed bags of ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-like devices in the church hall where luncheon was being held, authorities said.

Authorities say Chou appeared to have chosen the church at random on May 15 and did not know anyone there before driving from Las Vegas to California the day before

Authorities say Chou appeared to have chosen the church at random on May 15 and did not know anyone there before driving from Las Vegas to California the day before

Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera ordered Chou held without bail

Orange County Superior Court Judge Cynthia M. Herrera ordered Chou held without bail

Churchgoers are seen as police investigate after a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods May 15

Churchgoers are seen as police investigate after a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods May 15

Before the shooting, Chou spent $16.10 to buy seven thick photocopied volumes of handwritten Chinese text and a USB flash drive at the World Journal’s office in Monterey Park, a Los suburb, according to photos published in the Chinese-language newspaper Angeles.

The pages were titled, “Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence,” in an apparent reference to Taiwan’s self-government. The Chinese Communist Party continues to call for Taiwan’s reunification with China.

The diary pages came a day after Chou allegedly opened fire at a luncheon attended by elderly parishioners at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods Parish.

The newspaper did not report the contents of the diaries and no one there appeared to have read them before they were sent to the police through the newspaper’s lawyer, said an employee, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to to speak openly.