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A prominent Orange County doctor who was killed during a mass shooting at a Laguna Woods church on Sunday is being hailed as a hero after he tackled the gunman and tried to disarm him, allowing worshipers to step in and help.
During a news conference led by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, Sheriff Donald Barnes said John Cheng, a sports medicine doctor, was immediately after the suspect when the shooting inside the Presbyterian Church began to unfold. from Geneva on El Toro Road.
“Without Dr. Cheng’s actions, there is no doubt that there would be numerous additional victims in this crime,” Barnes said.
Barnes said witnesses said Cheng went directly to the suspect, identified as 68-year-old David Chou of Las Vegas, and tackled him.
A group of worshipers stepped in to help Cheng, using items inside the church to stop Chou, who was eventually bound by the legs with an extension cord.
During the fight, Cheng was shot several times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Dr. Cheng’s heroic actions … literally the meaning of good versus evil between Dr. Cheng and the suspect in this case,” Barnes said.
Cheng, who was 52 years old, leaves behind his wife and his two sons.
“After others were shot, he took it upon himself to walk across the room and do whatever he could to incapacitate the assailant,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. “He was shot and then there was an attempt to shoot him again, but the gun jammed and he succumbed to his injuries.”
Spitzer went on to say that Cheng “sacrificed himself so that others might live.”
“That irony in a church is not lost on me,” he said.
Cheng helped found South Coast Medical Group, which is about four miles from where Sunday’s deadly shooting took place. There is a growing memorial of his patients and colleagues just outside the family practice.
“I have no doubt that everyone who was there would not be with us today had it not been for Dr. John Cheng being there yesterday,” said South Coast Medical Group CEO Johanna Gherardini.
Cheng’s work family says the heroic doctor was not part of the Geneva Presbyterian Church, but rather he had taken his mother there for the first time on Sunday since his father passed away a month ago. Gherardini says his family is heartbroken and in shock.
“They are devastated,” she said. “It was his man.”
Gherardini also said that Dr. Cheng was a master martial artist and taught everyone how to protect themselves in an emergency.
“He insisted that everyone should know how to defend themselves,” Gherardini said. “I know exactly one hundred percent. When they said that, he came across the room and accused him. I can see him doing that.”
His colleagues said they always knew Dr. Cheng had a passion for medicine and healing, and now they have hailed him as a hero for making the ultimate sacrifice to save others.
“He was a protector and that’s exactly what he did,” Gherardini said.
Cheng’s colleagues say they plan to organize a memorial in the doctor’s honor in the near future.
Meanwhile, Chou was booked on one felony count of murder and five felony counts of attempted murder. He is being held on $1 million bond.
The Orange County district attorney’s office is expected to formally charge him on Monday.
Authorities said the shooting was a “politically motivated hate incident” and is now being investigated as a hate crime. Barnes said Chou, a US citizen from China, was motivated by anger over political tensions between China and Taiwan.
At least one person was killed and several others were injured during a shooting Sunday at a church in Laguna Woods, authorities said.
That anger pushed him to travel to Southern California from Las Vegas, where he lives alone and worked in security.