LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Las Vegas man charged in last year’s mass shooting at a California church is now facing federal hate crime charges, as well as weapons and explosives offenses.
David Chou, 69, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, California. He pleaded not guilty in October to killing one man and shooting five other members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California.
Chou — or David Wenwei Chou — is accused of killing Dr. John Cheng, 52, of Laguna Niguel, California, who tried to stop the attack.
The federal charges — 98 counts in all — accuse Chou in Cheng’s death and allege he tried to kill 44 others using firearms and explosive devices that he carried inside the church. The indictment alleges that Chou acted because of the victims’ national origin and religion, and he intentionally obstructed the victims’ religious exercise.
Details of the indictment:
- 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, resulting in the death of one person and attempts to kill 44 others using a firearm and attempted use of explosives and fire
- 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by attacking the church congregants because of their actual or perceived Taiwanese national origin and Presbyterian faith
- 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
- Six counts of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence
Authorities say that before firing May 15 with a 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun Chou mingled at a luncheon with members of the church.
If convicted, Chou faces a maximum penalty of death or life in prison without parole. He is currently in custody on the state charges in California.