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Laguna Woods church shooting suspect ‘revealed anti-Taiwan motive’ in seven-volume diary sent to newspaper

Orange County Sheriff's Department

The accused gunman behind the deadly shooting at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, California, reportedly sent a seven-volume journal entitled “Diary of an Independence-Destroying Angel” to a Chinese-language newspaper prior to the attack.

Authorities say that David Chou, 68, travelled from his home in Las Vegas on Sunday morning and drove 270 miles to the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods, where he proceeded to barricade the doors with chains and nails before opening fire on elderly parishioners gathering for a luncheon to honour a pastor.

Chou, who’s been charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, was tackled shortly after the gunfire erupted by one of the churchgoers, Dr John Cheng, 52.

Authorities said the 52-year-old husband, who died from a gunshot wound while charging at the accused shooter, likely saved the lives of dozens.

The multi-paged journal sent by the Las Vegas security guard reportedly arrived on the doorstep of the World Journal offices, based in a Los Angeles suburb, on Monday, one day after the deadly attack that authorities have said they believe was motivated by his hatred for Taiwan.

Authorities said David Chou, the accused gunman in Sunday's deadly attack at a Southern California church, was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people. (Orange County Sheriff's Department)

Speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, one employee at the Chinese-language newspaper confirmed that the newsroom received the thick photocopied volumes but didn’t read through them nor report on its contents before sending it along to police.

The Orange County sheriff’s spokesperson told the news agency that they were aware of the reports that confirmed the existence of the accused gunman’s diary, but they could not confirm whether those journals had been sent on to OCSO’s investigators or the FBI.

The Independent has reached out to OCSO for comment on the seven-volume diary sent by the accused shooter.

In addition to the diary, which bore the title of “Diary of an Independence-Destroying Angel”, a supposed reference to Taiwan’s self-government, the 68-year-old also sent along a flash drive to the Chinese-language newspaper.

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. (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

During a press conference this week, investigators told reporters they’d begun to characterise the shooting as a “politically motivated hate incident” and added that they believe Chou “specifically targeted the Taiwanese community”, according to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

Authorities said that part of what supported their theory were the notes they found in Chou’s car, where he’d indicated that he didn’t believe Taiwan should be independent from China.

Communist-ruled China, a country that views democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province, has ramped up calls for unification in recent years while the island nation – which the US does not have diplomatic relations with but shares “a robust unofficial relationship” with – continues to challenge the mainland’s influence.

Chou, who was born and raised in Taiwan to Chinese parents, had also apparently written about being mistreated while he lived in the island nation.

California Church Shooting (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“According to the suspect’s writings that have been interpreted, he fostered a grievance against the Taiwanese community, and he was upset about the political tensions between China and Taiwan,” the OCSO said in a statement Tuesday.

On Sunday, the accused shooter reportedly attended a full church service and then proceeded to mingle with parishioners for approximately 40 minutes before he began blocking the entryways, the Associated Press reported.

All the wounded church attendees, ranging in age from 66 to 92, were expected to survive.

In addition to the murder and attempted murder charges, Chou also faces a charge of murder with the special circumstance of the use of a gun and lying-in wait, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Though California Governor Gavin Newsom halted executions in the state in 2019 through an executive order, the special circumstance charge against Chou – if convicted – could mean he would be facing life in prison without parole and potentially the death penalty.

Prosecutors have yet to file any charges against Chou that would lead to a hate crime sentencing enhancement in his case, as Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday that the investigation is still ongoing.

“While there’s very strong evidence right now that this was motivated by hate, we want to make sure that we have put together all the evidence that confirms that theory,” Mr Spitzer said Tuesday.

Chou’s arraignment has been scheduled for 10 June and a judge on Tuesday ruled that he be held without bail.