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Authorities: Hate against Taiwanese led to church attack

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Authorities: Hate against Taiwanese led to church attack

By AMY TAXIN, KEN RITTER and DEEPA BHARATH

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) — A gunman in a deadly attack at a Southern California church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese people, authorities said.

The shooter killed Dr. John Cheng, 52, and wounded five others during a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, authorities said at a Monday news conference.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the motive of the shooting was a grievance between the shooter, identified as a Chinese immigrant and U.S. citizen, and the Taiwanese community. China claims Taiwan is a part of its national territory and has not ruled out force to bring the island under its rule.

The suspect was identified as David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas. He has been booked on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder and is being held on $1 million bail.

Chou is expected to appear in state court Tuesday and it was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

Chou’s family was among many that were apparently forcibly removed from China to Taiwan sometime after 1948, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Chou’s hatred toward the island, documented in hand-written notes that authorities found, seems like it began when he felt he wasn’t treated well while living there.

Barnes, the sheriff, said Chou drove from Las Vegas to the Orange County church, where he was not a regular attendee, secured the doors with chains, super glue and nails and started shooting. The gunman had placed four Molotov cocktail-like devices inside the church.

Barnes said Cheng, a sports medicine doctor who is survived by a wife and two children, heroically charged at the shooter and attempted to disarm him, allowing others to intervene. Cheng probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people,” the sheriff said.

A pastor hit the gunman on the head with a chair and parishioners hog-tied him with electrical cords. But Cheng was hit by gunfire.

“I will tell you that evil was in that church,” Spitzer said, who added that Chou had “an absolute bias” against Taiwan and its people.

A former neighbor, meanwhile, says Chou’s life unraveled after he was nearly beaten to death several years ago.

Chou had been a pleasant man who used to own the Las Vegas apartment building where he lived, Balmore Orellana told The Associated Press.

But Orellana said Chou received a head injury and serious body injuries in an attack by a tenant and he sold the property. The neighbor said that last summer Chou fired a gun inside his apartment. No one was hurt but he was evicted.

Orellana says Chou’s mental ability seemed to diminish in recent months, he was angry that the government didn’t provide comfort in his retirement, and he may have been homeless.

At the California church, Jerry Chen had just stepped into the kitchen of the church’s fellowship hall around 1:30 p.m. Sunday when he heard the gunshots.

Chen, 72, a longtime member of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, peeked around the corner and saw others screaming, running and ducking under tables.

“I knew someone was shooting,” he said. “I was very, very scared. I ran out the kitchen door to call 911. ”

Samuel Nganga, a member of Geneva and a caretaker for the church, said he was starting to clean up in the kitchen when he heard the shots. He and others crawled out on their hands and knees to escape.

Four of the five people wounded suffered critical gunshot injuries. Authorities on Monday said two of the wounded were in good condition, two were in stable condition and the status of the fifth patient was undetermined.

Chen said a group of about 40 congregants had gathered in the fellowship hall for a luncheon after a morning service to welcome their former Pastor Billy Chang, a beloved and respected community member who had served the church for 20 years. Chang moved back to Taiwan two years ago. This was his first time back stateside, Chen said.

Everyone had just finished lunch and were taking photos with Chang when Chen went into the kitchen, he said. That’s when he heard the gunshots. People told him afterward that the gunman had stopped to reload when Chang hit him on the head with the chair.

“This is just so sad,” Chen said. “I never, ever thought something like this would happen in my church, in my community.”

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York in a racist rampage where the white gunman allegedly targeted a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Laguna Woods was built as a senior living community and later became a city. More than 80% of residents in the city of 18,000 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles are at least 65.

Those wounded by gunshots included four Asian men, ages 66, 75, 82 and 92, and an 86-year-old Asian woman, the sheriff’s department said.

It was not immediately clear whether all of the victims were of Taiwanese descent.

Tensions between China and Taiwan are at the highest in decades, with Beijing stepping up its military harassment by flying fighter jets toward the self-governing island. China has not ruled out force to reunify with Taiwan, which split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

Taiwan’s chief representative in the U.S., Bi-khim Hsiao, offered condolences to the families on Twitter.

“I join the families of the victims and Taiwanese American communities in grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded survivors,” Hsiao wrote on Sunday.

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This story has been corrected to show that Pastor Billy Chang has not retired.

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Ritter reported from Las Vegas. Bharath reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Stefanie Dazio and John Antczak in Los Angeles also contributed to this story. News Researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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Wisconsin’s Tony Evers looks for boost from anger over abortion

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Wisconsin’s Tony Evers looks for boost from anger over abortion

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers hopes to translate anger over the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade into votes this fall as he vows to fight a 173-year-old state abortion ban, including offering clemency to any doctor convicted and not appointing prosecutors who would enforce the prohibition.

Evers, who won election in the battleground state four years ago by just over 1 percentage point, told The Associated Press ahead of his appearance Saturday at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention that abortion will energize key independent voters to support him and other Democrats.

“Any time you take half the people in Wisconsin and make them second class citizens, I have to believe there’s going to be a reaction to that,” Evers said.

At a rally Saturday before the convention, Evers said: “I have seven granddaughters who are girls or young women. Yesterday they were made second-class citizens, and that’s (expletive).”

Wisconsin’s governor’s race is expected to be one of the hardest fought in the country this year. It’s a priority for Democrats given the importance of swing state Wisconsin in the 2024 presidential election. Evers is also the only thing standing in the way of the Republican-controlled Legislature. In his first term, he issued more vetoes than any other governor in modern history.

Democrats running to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson will also speak Sunday at the convention in La Crosse. Five Republicans are running for a chance to take on Evers. Wisconsin’s primary is Aug. 9.

About 1,000 people attended the convention that kicked off Saturday night.

Evers told the AP that he feels confident abortion will be a winning issue for his party because polls have consistently shown about 60% of Wisconsin residents support it being legal in most or all cases.

“You can’t ignore the fact that we now have politicians making decisions for women and their health care,” Evers said. “So we’ll be talking about that a lot.”

Evers vowed to do whatever he can to evade the state’s abortion ban that was passed in 1849 but hasn’t been in effect since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. That includes supporting lawsuits to overturn it, not appointing district attorneys who would enforce it and offering clemency for doctors convicted under it.

“We’re looking at everything,” he said.

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Paul Farrow said Evers’ position on abortion was appealing only to “his activist base and going against the will of the people.” He downplayed the significance of the court’s ruling on the election.

“All they really did yesterday was, 50 years ago an activist bench made a decision that wasn’t constitutional and put that into play, so they’re correcting that,” Farrow said. “Is it causing any change to the political landscape? There is a standard that people have. Republicans know that we’re pro-life.”

In addition to abortion, Evers said his reelection campaign and message to Democrats will focus on successes from his first term, including using federal money to fix roads and support small businesses. Evers said he will also emphasize what’s at stake if Republicans win, “including voter suppression and voting rights.”

Evers is a supporter of Wisconsin’s bipartisan commission that oversees elections, but all of his Republican opponents want to do away with it. Evers also vetoed a series of bills that would make it more difficult to vote absentee in the state.

President Joe Biden carried Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes, an outcome that some Republicans have refused to accept even though it has withstood two recounts, multiple lawsuits, an independent audit and even a review by a conservative group.

Republicans hope to harness unhappiness about gas prices, inflation and crime to knock off Evers.

No governor who was the same party as the sitting president has won election in Wisconsin since 1990. A Marquette University Law School poll this week showed Evers slightly ahead of his Republican challengers, while Johnson was about even with each Democrat running against him.

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Saints’ seven runs enough to put away Buffalo

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Saints’ seven runs enough to put away Buffalo

Eliot Soto went 4 for 5 with three RBIs, and Aaron Sanchez worked in and out of trouble for five innings as the Saints beat the Buffalo Blue Jays, 7-4, on Saturday at Sahlen Field.

Soto’s two-run single in the fourth inning gave St. Paul a 2-0 lead. He scored on Spencer Steer’s one-out single for a 5-3 lead, and his two-out single gave the Saints a 7-3 lead in the ninth.

The Saints have led every game in this six-game series in the eighth inning or later yet take a 2-3 record into Sunday’s series finale, a 12:05 p.m. first pitch.

Michael Helman went 3 for 5 with a pair of solo home runs, and John Andreoli added a solo homer as the Saints beat the first-place team in the International League East Division.

Sanchez (2-0) allowed five hits and five walks in five innings but limited the Blue Jays to three runs. He struck out three. JC Ramirez pitched a scoreless inning, walking two, for his second hold.

Juan Minaya pitched the ninth, giving up a leadoff homer to Samad Taylor, and putting two more on base before retiring Chavez Young on a liner to center to close out the Saints’ second win of the series.

Thomas Hatch (4-4) took the loss, charged with four earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks. He struck out five.

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Russia fires missiles across Ukraine, cements gains in east

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Russia fires missiles across Ukraine, cements gains in east

By DAVID KEYTON and JOHN LEICESTER

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces were seeking to swallow up the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, pressing their momentum after taking full control Saturday of the charred ruins of Sievierodonetsk and the chemical plant where hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians had been holed up.

Russia also launched dozens of missiles on several areas across the country far from the heart of the eastern battles. Some of the missiles were fired from Russian long-range Tu-22 bombers deployed from Belarus for the first time, Ukraine’s air command said.

The bombardment preceded a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, during which Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said late Saturday that Russian and Moscow-backed separatist forces now control Sievierodonetsk and the villages surrounding it. He said the attempt by Ukrainian forces to turn the Azot plant into a “stubborn center of resistance” had been thwarted.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk province, said Friday that Ukrainian troops were retreating from Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and house-to-house fighting. He confirmed Saturday that the city had fallen to Russian and separatist fighters, who he said were now trying to blockade Lysychansk from the south. The city lies across the river just to the west of Sievierodonetsk.

Capturing Lysychansk would give Russian forces control of every major settlement in the province, a significant step toward Russia’s aim of capturing the entire Donbas. The Russians and separatists control about half of Donetsk, the second province in the Donbas.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and that fighting was taking place in the heart of the city. There was no immediate comment on the claim from the Ukrainian side.

Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk have been the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas and destroying the Ukrainian military defending it — the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces.

Russian bombardment has reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and cut its population from 100,000 to 10,000. The last remaining Ukrainian troops were holed up in underground shelters in the huge Azot chemical plant, along with hundreds of civilians. A separatist representative, Ivan Filiponenko, said earlier Saturday that its forces evacuated 800 civilians from the plant during the night, Interfax reported.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleg Zhdanov said some of the troops were heading for Lysychansk. But Russian moves to cut off Lysychansk will give those retreating troops little respite.

Some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to the west, four Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea hit a “military object” in Yaroviv, Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said. He did not give further details of the target, but Yaroviv has a sizable military base used for training fighters, including foreigners who have volunteered to fight for Ukraine.

Russian missiles struck the Yaroviv base in March, killing 35 people. The Lviv region, although far from the front lines, has come under fire at various points in the the war as Russia’s military worked to destroy fuel storage sites.

About 30 Russian missiles were fired on the Zhytomyr region in central Ukraine on Saturday morning, killing one Ukrainian soldier, regional governor Vitaliy Buchenko said. He said all of the strikes were aimed at military targets.

In the northwest, two missiles hit a service station and auto repair center in Sarny, killing three people and wounding four, the Rivne regional governor, Vitaliy Koval, said. He posted a picture of the destruction. Sarny is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Belarus.

In southern Ukraine along the Black Sea coast, nine missiles fired from Crimea hit the port city of Mykolaiv, the Ukrainian military said.

In the north, about 20 missiles were fired from Belarus into the Chernihiv region, the Ukrainian military said.

Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said the Russian bombers’ use of Belarusian airspace for the first time for Saturday’s attack was “directly connected to attempts by the Kremlin to drag Belarus into the war.”

Belarus hosts Russian military units and was used as a staging ground before Russia invaded Ukraine, but its own troops have not crossed the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that as a war that Moscow expected to last five days moved into its fifth month, Russia “felt compelled to stage such a missile show.”

He said the war was at a difficult stage, “when we know that the enemy will not succeed, when we understand that we can defend our country, but we don’t know how long it will take, how many more attacks, losses and efforts there will be before we can see that victory is already on our horizon.”

During his meeting in St. Petersburg with Lukashenko, Putin told him the Iskander-M missile systems would be arriving in the coming months. He noted that they can fire either ballistic or cruise missiles and carry nuclear as well as conventional warheads. Russia has launched several Iskander missiles into Ukraine during the war.

Following a botched attempt to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in the early stage of the invasion that started Feb. 24, Russian forces have shifted their focus to the Donbas, where the Ukrainian forces have fought Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking in Washington on condition of anonymity, on Friday called the Ukrainians’ withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk a “tactical retrograde” to consolidate forces into positions where they can better defend themselves. The move will reinforce Ukraine’s efforts to keep Russian forces pinned down in a small area, the official said.

After repeated Ukrainian requests to its Western allies for heavier weaponry to counter Russia’s edge in firepower, four medium-range American rocket launchers arrived this week, with four more on the way.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a video Saturday showing the first use of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, in Ukraine. The video gave no location or indication of the targets. The rockets can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers).

The senior U.S. defense official said Friday that more Ukrainian forces are training outside Ukraine to use the HIMARS and are expected back in their country with the weapons by mid-July. Also to be sent are 18 U.S. coastal and river patrol boats.

The official said there is no evidence Russia has intercepted any of the steady flow of weapons into Ukraine from the U.S. and other nations. Russia has repeatedly threatened to strike, or actually claimed to have hit, such shipments.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at

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