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Leaders call for unity at vigil following deadly shooting at Laguna Woods church

About 100 people gathered at Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church in Irvine for a candlelight vigil Monday in response to a weekend of gun violence, including a politically motivated attack against Taiwanese congregants at a Laguna Woods church and shoppers at a market in Buffalo.

The event welcomed people from all walks of life. It was led by COR’s Senior Miniister, Rev. Dr. Ralph E. Williamson. He was joined by other faith leaders representing Orange County’s Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities, as well as civic leaders and representatives from law enforcement.

During the service, pastor KC Liu of Evangelical Formosan Church of Irvine noted that the suspected Laguna Woods gunman,  David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas, hoped to stoke longstanding tensions between Taiwan and China.

“We cannot give in to the shooter’s ideology, ” Liu said. “He wanted to divide us.”

Liu called on the community to stand even firmer together.

Notes expressing anger toward the people of Taiwan stemming from Taiwan’s separation from mainland China were found in the suspect’s vehicle, Orange County Sheriff’s officials said. Sheriff Don Barnes suggested hate may have been a factor in the shooting on Sunday.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told congregants he went into crime scene in the wake of the shooting. He described seeing where a gunman hid his weapons, and wasted plates of food that spilled onto the ground as shots rang out.

“I could feel the trauma in that room,” Spitzer said.

Pastor Billy Chang, a former pastor of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church targeted on Sunday, was also among the event’s speakers. He had recently returned from Taiwan and was inside Geneva Presbyterian Church on Sunday when the gunfire broke out, and broke down in tears while speaking at the vigil.

Later, in an interview after the vigil, he remembered thinking he “had to do something” before rushing at the shooter and striking him with a chair.

After the gunman was subdued, Chang saw Dr. John Cheng lying wounded on the floor. Cheng died in the shooting, four others were shot and injured. Chang struggled to describe what he felt at that moment.

Chang did not know Cheng personally, but he said he knew the doctor’s parents. The physician being hailed as a hero had been grieving the recent death of his father,  Chang said.

One of the surviving victims had been released from the hospital as of Monday, Chang said. Two more were expected to go home from the hospital later that evening.

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