“Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is no doubt that there would be numerous additional victims in this crime,” Sheriff Barnes said.
Johnna Gherardini, the medical center’s executive director, said that Dr. Cheng, who was not a church member, had picked up his mother from her home at Laguna Woods Village and taken her to church on Sunday. She said that Dr. Cheng, who grew up in Texas, was not religious and did not have strong political views about China, but was there in solidarity with his mother, who was mourning the recent death of his father.
The physician, who is survived by his wife and two teenage children, was also an accomplished master martial arts instructor.
“He was there for a reason,” Ms. Gherardini said.
The shooter had secured the church doors with chains and had attempted to disable the locks with glue, the sheriff said, adding that he also tried to nail one of the building’s doors shut. Bags filled with magazines of ammunition, as well as several incendiary devices, were found inside the church, Sheriff Barnes said.
“The majority of the people in attendance were elderly, and they acted spontaneously and heroically,” Sheriff Barnes said. “And if not for their quick action, the way that this individual set up that environment to kill many more people, there would have been many, many more lives lost.”
The authorities said the suspect fired inside the church while the members ate lunch after a morning service. The churchgoers hogtied the gunman with an extension cord and confiscated two weapons before deputies arrived and took him into custody, Sheriff Barnes said.