One man was killed and five others wounded when a gunman opened fire in a church in Laguna Woods Sunday afternoon.
The shooting occurred at Geneva Presbyterian Church, located in the 24000 block of El Toro Road, at around 1:25 pm
By the time Orange County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene, the suspect, a man in his 60s, was hogtied by an extension cord by churchgoers. The churchgoers had also confiscated at least two weapons, the sheriff’s department said.
Between 30 and 40 members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which holds a 10 am service at the location every Sunday, were inside of the church at the time of the shooting. Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock disclosed that the shooting occurred at a lunch banquet following a morning service at the church.
“We believe a group of churchgoers detained him and hogtied his legs with an extension cord and confiscated at least two weapons from him,” Hallock said. “He was detained when deputies arrived. 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 a large number of the people gathered at the church were believed to be of Taiwanese descent.
One shooting victim died at the scene. His name was not immediately released.
The five wounded victims, four men and a women, were rushed to local hospitals, four in critical condition and one with minor injuries. They ranged in age from 66 to 92, the sheriff’s department said.
Two of the victims were transported to Orange County Global Medical Center, two to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo and one was taken to University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Laguna Woods is a community comprised primarily of senior citizens, with 82% of residents reportedly over the age of 65, according to numbers from the US Census Bureau.
Investigators do not believe the suspect lives in the area. It was also unclear if he was attending the service prior to the start of the shooting.
“At this time we do not know what the suspect’s motive may be or whether he had an intended target, or whether this was even a hate-related incident,” Hallock continued.
Footage from Sky9 showed authorities taping off a single vehicle with Nevada license plates in the parking lot of the church.
Stephen Galloway, assistant special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, noted that both firearms contained serial numbers and were not considered “ghost guns.”
The ATF was conducting an “emergency trace on the recovered firearms,” Galloway said.
Kristi Johnson, assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles branch of the FBI, said that investigators were working “very hard to determine the motive.”
She added that linguists were brought in to work with the congregates throughout the investigation.
Bomb-sniffing K9s swept the church premises and found no explosive devices.
El Toro Road was shut down between Calle Sonora and Canyon Wren for several hours, but has since reopened.
As community membersto pay their respects to the victims of the tragic incident, local law enforcement and politicians offered additional support to residents, including mental health resources.
“Today is a very dark day for the people of Laguna Woods and Orange County,” Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said. “Our thoughts and prayers go to all those affected by this senseless tragedy – just a day after the tragic and hate-filled actions that led to the senseless deaths of Americans at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York. We too are now dealing with people shot in their place of worship.”
“To the church congregants impacted by the violence that took place here today: We are here for you, and we will seek justice for you,” Bartlett added. “To the perpetrators of such heinous acts, our county will work to ensure justice for the victims.”
Laguna Woods Mayor Carol Moore thanked the “impressive” members of the church who “were wise enough to take action and endanger themselves to save others.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom took to Twitter following the shooting.
“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement,” Newsom wrote. “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.”
US Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) also released a statement which read:
“A shooting at a church in Laguna Woods has left multiple people injured and one deceased. This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo. This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”
A “Call to Prayer” statement was issued by Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision Tom Cramer:
“The Presbytery of Los Ranchos is deeply saddened by a fatal shooting that occurred at a lunch reception honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation that nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Initial reports indicate that one person was killed, and several others were severely injured. Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting. In your mercy, O Lord, we pray.”
State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) also released a statement Sunday evening via a Twitter thread.
“I’d like to extend my thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, and the entire City of Laguna Woods. Home to a close-knit community mostly of retirees, it is almost unthinkable that one of the safest places in the country would be hit by the specter of gun violence,” he said in part. “We should refuse to accept these tragedies as the new normal in our schools, our houses of worship, or anywhere.”
US Rep Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who commented on gun control following areleased another statement Sunday:
“It is horrifying to be grieving yet another tragic shooting in just 72 hours — another weekend in America defined by senseless violence,” Schiff wrote. “I will never accept this bloodshed as unavoidable. It can be stopped. But as we’ve seen over the past few days, months and years, unless we take immediate action on gun safety measures, history will repeat itself. Again and again. Enough is enough. We must act.”