One person was killed and five others injured after a gunman opened fire inside a church in California on Sunday, police said.
Authorities detained a gunman at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, a city of about 16,000 people 50 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The shooting took place just before 1:30 p.m. with about 30 congregants inside at the time who were gathered for a lunch after the day’s morning service.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said one person was found dead inside the church and four other victims were in critical condition. Another person was being treated for minor injuries. All of the victims were adults, with the oldest being 92.
Police identified the suspect as an Asian male in his 60s, adding they don’t believe he is from the Laguna Woods area. It’s unclear what motivated the shooting, or if he has any connection to the church.
Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock said the shooting was a “tragic” day for the community but said the incident would have been much worse without the “exceptional bravery” of members of the congregation. Hallock said a group of churchgoers detained the shooter, hog-tied his legs with an extension cord, and removed two weapons from him. Police arriving on scene found the suspect detained when they entered the building.
“Based on the preliminary investigation … it seemed that one or more of the congregants did act quite heroically and jumped in,” Hallock said at a press conference. “Had people not intervened it could have been much worse.”
The Los Angeles Times reported a Taiwanese congregation was meeting inside the church at the time of the attack.
“My understanding is this all occurred inside the church building,” Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told The New York Times. “We’re trying to figure out what kind of a service was going on at the time.”
More than 90% of people in the Laguna Woods enclave live at Laguna Woods Village, a sprawling over-55 community.
Lisa Bartlett, Orange County’s Fifth District Supervisor, said it was a “dark day for the people of Laguna Woods.
“Just a day after the tragic and hate-filled actions that led to the massacre [in New York] … we too are now dealing with people shot in their place of worship,” Bartlett said Sunday. “To the church congregants … we are here for you and we will seek justice for you. To the perpetrator, our county will work to ensure justice for the victims.”
The shooting comes just a day after a deadly massacre in Buffalo, New York. An 18-year-old suspect was arrested after police allege he opened fire inside a supermarket, killing 10 people and injuring three others.
Authorities have called that shooting a racially-motivated hate crime.