One person was killed and five others were injured in a shooting during a meeting of Asian churchgoers in Southern California Sunday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
Members of the congregation detained a man now in custody by hogtying him. They also confiscated at least two handguns later seized by deputies, Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said.
The attack was reported at Geneva Presbyterian Church at 1:26 p.m. in the retirement city of Laguna Woods, the department said. Four victims suffered critical injuries, it said.
The body of the deceased was discovered at the scene, sheriff’s officials said. All the surviving victims, including a person with minor injuries, were hospitalized.
Sheriff’s officials said as many as 40 people who belong to a Taiwanese church were at the facility when gunfire broke out.
Police sources said the man being detained for questioning is in his 60s and of Asian descent. They stressed that the investigation was in its very preliminary stages and they have not determined any motive.
Hallock later confirmed that initial information on the person’s background at a press conference. He acknowledged concerns over rising hate crime but urged people to await more information as the inquiry into the attack continued Sunday night.
He praised the quick actions of the congregation.
“They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” Hallock said. ” … It appears that one or more of the congregants did act quite heroically.”
Investigators were still trying to determine where the man in custody resides and whether he has any relationship to the congregation or facility. “No information on age or date of birth,” the undersheriff said.
It does not appear that there are any other wanted individuals, the sources said earlier. Detectives hope serial numbers on the firearms might help them find out more about the person in custody, officials said.
The Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, a name that refers to a nearby city, was scheduled to meet at the facility at 10 a.m., according to its website.
Tom Cramer, a co-executive at a network of Orange County Presbyterian churches, the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, said the violence took place during a luncheon honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation.
The organization “is deeply saddened by a fatal shooting that occurred at a lunch reception …,” he said in a statement. “Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives said agents based in Los Angeles were assisting sheriff’s investigators. The FBI also responded.
Laguna Woods and Laguna Woods Village are relatively exclusive communities for people 55 and older and their companions or loved ones. Large parts of it, including the village, are gated.
The city is composed of single-family homes, town houses and apartment-style residences. It opened as Leisure World in 1964. It became the county’s 32nd city in 1999.
Authorities asked people to avoid the area, noting that multiple roads were closed.
On Friday police in Dallas said they were looking for a suspect who might be targeting people of Asian background in a series of shootings. The last of three such attacks injured three women from South Korea, officials said.
Police Chief Eddie Garcia said the department’s inquiry was a hate crime investigation. Attacks against Asian Americans have skyrocketed in recent years.
Erick Mendoza and Michelle Acevedo contributed.