One man was killed and five others wounded when a gunman opened fire in a church in Laguna Woodson Sunday, May 15, 2022.
The shooting occurred at Geneva Presbyterian Church, located in the 24000 block of El Toro Road, at around 1:25 p.m.
By the time Orange County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene, the suspect, a man in his 60s, was hogtied by an extension cord by churchgoers. They had also confiscated at least two weapons, the sheriff’s department said. He was unhurt.
One shooting victim died at the scene. His name was not immediately released.
The five wounded victims, four men, and a women, were rushed to local hospitals, several in critical condition. One suffered minor injuries. They were ages 92, 86, 82, 75, and 66, the sheriff’s department said.
Two of the victims were transported to Orange County Global Medical Center, two to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, and one was taken to University of California, Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
The suspect was detained at the scene. More to follow. El Toro Road is closed between Calle Sonora and Canyon Wren, please avoid the area. We are in Unified Command with @OCFireAuthority.
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) May 15, 2022
Between 30 and 40 members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which holds a 10 a.m. service at the location every Sunday, were inside of the church at the time of the shooting. Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock disclosed that the shooting occurred at a lunch banquet following a morning service at the church.
Hallock said a large number of the people gathered at the church were believed to be of Taiwanese descent.
“We believe a group of churchgoers detained him and hogtied his legs with an extension cord and confiscated at least two weapons from him,” Hallock said. “He was detained when deputies arrived. 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.”
Investigators do not believe the suspect lives in the area. It was also unclear if he was attending the service prior to the start of the shooting.
Those individuals were being held for interview inside of the church as investigators worked to determine the series of events leading up to and following the shooting.
Laguna Woods Mayor Carol Moore also spoke, thanking the “impressive” members of the church who “were wise enough to take action and endanger themselves to save others.”
Sky9 overhead revealed that authorities had taped off a single vehicle with Nevada license plates in the parking lot of the church.
“At this time we do not know what the suspect’s motive may be or whether he had an intended target, or whether this was even a hate-related incident,” Hallock continued.
Special agents with the Los Angeles branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were assisting with the investigation by conducting an “emergency trace on the recovered firearms,” as detailed by ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Stephen Galloway. He continued to note that both firearms contained serial numbers and were not considered “ghost guns.”
Additionally, representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also on scene. Kristi Johnson, the Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles branch of the FBI spoke at Sunday’s press briefing, where she offered condolences to the victims and a “heartfelt thank you to the congregates who were very brave today in their actions,” before noting that investigators were working “very hard to determine the motive,” which would indicate whether federal or local prosecution would be pursued.
She also noted that linguists were en route to work with the congregates throughout the investigation.
Orange County Fire Authority paramedics were working to treat victims at the scene and transport those who required further care. “Our hearts are with the victims, their families and their community,” said OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy, detailing how crews quickly responded to safely transport the five victims.
Bomb-sniffing K-9s with the OCSD Hazardous Device Unit swept the church premises found no devices present.
As a result, authorities urged the public to avoid the area as El Toro Road was closed between Calle Sonora and Canyon Wren as the investigation continued. El Toro Road reopened at 7:20 p.m.
Orange County 5th District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett spoke with the press Sunday, where she said, “Today is a very dark day for the people of Laguna Woods and Orange County. Our thoughts and prayers go to all those affected by this senseless tragedy – just a day after the tragic and hate-filled actions that led to the senseless deaths of Americans at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York. We too are now dealing with people shot in their place of worship.”
“To the church congregants impacted by the violence that took place here today: We are here for you, and we will seek justice for you,” she concluded. “To the perpetrator of such heinous acts, our county will work to ensure justice for the victims.”
She further thanked OCSD deputies and OCFA responders for their swift and outstanding response.
California Governor Gavin Newsom took to Twitter following news of the shooting releasing a statement that read:
“We are actively monitoring the shooting at a church in Laguna Woods and working closely with local law enforcement.
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.”
Congresswoman Katie Porter, who represents the 45th Congressional District which oversees the area also released a statement to the public:
“A shooting at a church in Laguna Woods has left multiple people injured and one deceased. This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo. This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families.”
A “Call to Prayer” statement was issued by Presbytery Co-Executive for Vision and Mission/Head of Staff Tom Cramer, which read:
“The Presbytery of Los Ranchos is deeply saddened by a fatal shooting that occurred at a lunch reception honoring a former pastor of the Taiwanese congregation that nests at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods. 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.”
Senator Dave Min, who represents California’s 37th District also released a statement Sunday evening via a Twitter thread.
“I’d like to extend my thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, and the entire City of Laguna Woods. Home to a close-knit community mostly of retirees, it is almost unthinkable that one of the safest places in the country would be hit by the specter of gun violence,” he said in part. “We should refuse to accept these tragedies as the new normal in our schools, our houses of worship, or anywhere.”
Congressman Adam Schiff, who also commented on gun control following a, offered his thoughts on Sunday.
“It is horrifying to be grieving yet another tragic shooting in just 72 hours — another weekend in America defined by senseless violence,” Schiff remarked. “I will never accept this bloodshed as unavoidable. It can be stopped. But as we’ve seen over the past few days, months, and years, unless we take immediate action on gun safety measures, history will repeat itself. Again and again. Enough is enough. We must act.”
Laguna Woods is a community comprised primarily of persons considered to be senior citizens, with 82% of residents reportedly over the age of 65, as detailed by the United States Census Bureau.
As community membersto pay their respects to the victims of the tragic incident, local law enforcement and politicians offered additional support to residents, including mental health resources.