SANTA ANA (CNS) - A Las Vegas man accused of killing a doctor and wounding five people at a Laguna Woods church last year is facing nearly a hundred federal hate crime, weapons and explosive counts, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
David Wenwei Chou, 69, was indicted Wednesday on 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, which resulted in the death of one victim, attempts to kill 44 others and included the use of a gun and explosives and fire.
He was also indicted on 45 counts of violating hate crimes with an attack on Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian congregants in Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce by means of fire and explosives, one count of carrying explosives during the commission of a federal felony offense and six counts of using a gun during the commission of a crime of violence.
Chou would face life in federal prison without the possibility of parole if convicted at trial.
Chou was charged last year in state court with one count of murder with a special circumstance allegation that the attack was racially motivated. He is also charged with five counts of attempted premeditated murder, four counts of possession of an explosive device and faces sentencing enhancements for lying in wait and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death.
Chou faces at least life in prison without parole if convicted at trial and is eligible for the death penalty if prosecutors pursue it.
Aliso Viejo-based Dr. John Cheng, 52, was killed in the shooting when he rushed the gunman. Authorities say his actions bought time and allowed other parishioners to subdue the assailant, who was hogtied with an electrical cord until police arrived.
The defendant was accused of opening fire with two semiautomatic handguns May 15 of last year inside the church where the Taiwanese congregation was holding a luncheon to celebrate the return of a former pastor. Authorities alleged Chou carried out the shooting due to a long-standing grievance against the Taiwanese community over tensions with China.
Chou allegedly mingled amid the congregation and barricaded the church doors in hopes of trapping people inside. Authorities said he was in possession of four incendiary devices resembling Molotov cocktails, along with a bag of additional ammunition.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said previously he believed Chou intended to kill everyone in the church, then burn down the building.