A group of parishioners ended bloodshed when they tackled and hogtied a gunman who opened fire in a South California church on Sunday. The attacker killed one person and wounded five others, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
A longtime member of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Jerry Chen, said he was in the facility’s kitchen we he heard the shooting start around 1:30 p.m, The Associated Press reported.
“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 9-1-1. ”
After the shooting, Chen recalled hearing from others what happened inside the church while he was calling the police. Other attendees told Chen that former Pastor Billy Chang – who was visiting the church for the first time since moving back to Taiwan two years ago – hit the gunman in the head with a chair as others grabbed his gun, subdued him and tied him up.
“It was amazing how brave (Chang) and the others were,” Chen said. “This is just so sad. I never, ever thought something like this would happen in my church, in my community.”
Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said the group of parishioners who stopped the gunman “displayed…exceptional heroism and bravery.”
“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” Hallock said. “I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.”
Hallock said it is unclear how many shots were fired. He also said the investigation is working to determine if the gunman was known by members of the church or if he had attended the church service.
The sheriff’s department said those wounded in the assault were four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office tweeted that they were “actively monitoring” the situation.
“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement. No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,” the office wrote.
Rev. Tom Cramer, Co-Executive for Vision and Mission in the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, asked the public to pray for the church and it’s members.
“Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for those traumatized by this shooting,” Cramer said in a statement. “In your mercy, O Lord, we pray.”