The congregants of an Orange County church are being hailed as heroes after they managed to hogtie a gunman who went on a shooting spree on Sunday afternoon in what authorities are describing as an act of ‘exceptional heroism and bravery.’
One person was killed and five others were shot at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Six people at the house of worship were struck by gunfire after the shooter, said to be an Asian male in his 60s, opened fire at around 1:25 p.m. That man is now in police custody.
About 40 parishioners witnessed the violence – but those who were present also helped to prevent further bloodshed by overpowering the shooter and tying him up.
The group reportedly confiscated his weapons and restrained him until police arrived on the scene.
Police say those involved ‘showed exceptional heroism and bravery in detaining the suspect.’
‘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,’ Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said. ‘I think it’s safe to say that had people not intervened, it could have been much worse.’
Two handguns were found on the shooter and were quickly removed.
It’s not clear exactly how the parishioners were able to subdue the man, but as soon as they had him on the ground, they tied his arms and legs with electrical or extension cords, Hallock explained.
One person suffered fatal wounds and died at the scene at the church. Four of the other victims were critically wounded – while a fifth suffered minor injuries.
All of the victims were adults and have been revealed to be four men aged 66, 75, 82 and 92 and one woman, aged 86.
Two of them were taken to Providence Mission Hospital, the medical center confirmed. Another victim was transported to UC Irvine Medical Center, and two more were transported to Orange County Global Medical Center, including a 92-year-old man who was grazed by a bullet.
The majority of those inside the church were believed to be of Taiwanese descent and had gathered to honor a former pastor of the church with a lunch reception after Sunday morning’s service.
A motive for the shooting, which took place in an auditorium called Simpson Hall, rather than the main auditorium where services are normally held, wasn’t immediately known – but investigators said they don’t believe the gunman lives in the community.
Sheriff John Mina said police were still working to determine a motive and do not know whether it was a ‘hate-related’ incident.
Mina also said that it was not known whether the suspect had any connections to the church or whether any victims had been targeted.
‘Until we do that, we won’t really have a good idea if he was known to the congregants,’ Hallock said.
A number of people have been shot at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods
Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, on Sunday after a fatal shooting
All manner of emergency vehicles could be seen outsider the church on Sunday afternoon
Undersheriff Jeff Hallock is pictured speaking to members of the media following the Sunday shooting
The Orange County Sheriff gave details of what was unfolding on Sunday afternoon on Twitter
The shooting happened in the small city of Laguna Woods, about 55 miles southeast of Los Angeles
The shooting occurred at around 1:25pm on Sunday in the retirement community of Laguna Woods
Investigators from the the FBI, ATF together with Orange County law enforcement are looking at many factors, including whether the attack could be a hate crime and whether the gunman was known to the church community.
‘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.’ a statement from the diocese read.
The surrounding city of 18,000 consists of Laguna Woods Village, a large retirement community for people 55 and older formerly known as Leisure World. More than 80% of residents in the city are at least 65 years old, according to demographic data.
Cynthia Conners, the mayor pro tem in Laguna Woods, said on Sunday that she is a member of the church and had attended services that morning. A Taiwanese group typically use the church later in the morning.
‘I could not even imagine something like this could happen here,’ said Charlotte Hseih, a church organist to the New York Times. ‘I’m just as shocked as anybody.’
Orange County Sheriff’s deputies check the identification of a person trying to gain access to a parking lot of the church
One person was killedand four people were ‘critically’ injured in a shooting at the church near Los Angeles
Church goers are seen as police investigate after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. Many of those present were of Taiwanese descent
A police officer leads a bomb canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in a search for devices
Police are seen investigating after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods
Jeff Hallock, Orange County Sheriff’s Department undersheriff speaks to the media after the deadly shooting
Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were quickly on the scene
An Orange County Sheriff’s deputy is seen at the parking lot of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods putting up crime scene tape
A police officer leads a canine at the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church which eft one person dead, four critically wounded, and one with minor injuries
Police investigate the scene of a shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California
Law enforcement agencies from across the spectrum including the ATF, FBI and Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. were on site
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation.
‘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 tweet said.
‘This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo,’ said U.S. Rep Katie Porter, whose district includes Laguna Woods. ‘This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.’
The incident occurred in an area with a cluster of houses of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a Jewish synagogue.
On its website, Geneva Presbyterian Church describes its mission as ‘to remember, tell, and live the way of Jesus by being just, kind, and humble.’
‘All are welcome here. Really, we mean that! … Geneva aspires to be an inclusive congregation worshipping, learning, connecting, giving and serving together.’
Sandria Chou stands in front of police tape waiting for her parents following a shooting that took place on Sunday
Police cars are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California
Police tape is seen after a shooting inside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California
The Geneva Presbyterian Church is pictured after a deadly shooting, in Laguna Woods, California
Law enforcement officers are seen after a deadly shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California
A number of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances could be seen on scene outside the church
A firetruck is seen outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods
A passing driver captured images of a number of a fire engines that were on site following the shooting
A helicopter could be seen racing towards the scene on footage shared on Facebook
One person caught in traffic close to the church tweeted a picture of the scene on Sunday lunchtime
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation. ‘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 tweet said
It was the 18th mass shooting in California so far this year and the second of the weekend in the United States, which has been plagued with gun violence in recent years.
On Saturday a white supremacist killed 10 people during a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo.
Payton Gendron, 18, is alleged to have shot upwards of 13 people, the majority of whom were black.
Authorities say they suspect it was a racially-driven attack.
The shooter is also believed to have livestreamed the rampage. Gendron pled not guilty to first-degree murder.
He’s due back in court on Thursday, and is currently on suicide watch.
Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting that took place in the early afternoon in Laguna Woods
Police tape lines the sidewalk outside of Geneva Presbyterian Church, the site of a shooting on Sunday afternoon
The Geneva Presbyterian Church at 24301 El Toro Rd, Laguna Woods, California is pictured on the church’s Facebook page.
A file photo of how the church normally looks, as pictured from its Facebook page