By AMY TAXIN and STEFANIE DAZIO
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The man accused of opening fire on a Southern California church congregation because of his political hatred for Taiwan dubbed himself a “destroying angel” in a seven-volume diary sent to a newspaper before the attack, the paper said Wednesday.
David Chou, 68, spent $16.10 to mail seven thick photocopied volumes of handwritten Chinese text and a flash drive to the World Journal office in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, according to photos published in the Chinese-language paper.
The pages bore the title: “Diary of an Angel Destroying Independence” in an apparent reference to Taiwan’s self-government. The Chinese Communist Party continues to demand Taiwan reunify with China.
The diary pages were received Monday, one day after Chou allegedly opened fire at a lunch gathering of elderly parishioners at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods.
The newspaper didn’t report the contents of the diaries and nobody there apparently read through them before sending them to the police through the paper’s attorney, said an employee who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak openly.
Investigators were aware of the reports that the journals were sent to the newspaper, according to Orange County sheriff’s spokesperson Carrie Braun. She did not know if the sheriff’s department or FBI had taken possession of them as of Wednesday afternoon.
Chou could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of murder and attempted murder. He has not yet entered a plea and remained jailed without bail in Orange County pending a June 10 arraignment.
County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has said Chou was motivated by hatred for Taiwan, where he was born after his family was forced from mainland China when Communists prevailed in a civil war that ended in 1949. He apparently chose the church at random and didn’t know anyone there before he drove to California from Las Vegas on Saturday, authorities said.
Authorities have said Chou sat through a church service before attending the luncheon in honor of a former pastor, where he mingled with the parishioners for about 40 minutes before chaining and nailing shut exit doors and opening fire.
When the gunfire erupted, Dr. John Cheng, 52, charged Chou and was shot but authorities said he disrupted the attack and may have saved dozens of lives.
The former pastor, Billy Chang, then picked up a chair and threw it at Chou, who fell on the floor. Chang said he rushed at Chou and several congregation members held Chou down and tied him up.
Chou was armed with two legally purchased 9 mm handguns and concealed bags holding ammunition and four Molotov cocktail-style devices in the church hall where the luncheon was being held, authorities said.
The wounded ranged in age from 66 to 92 and were expected to survive.
The shooting shook Southern California’s Taiwanese community.
“I am starting to worry about our people,” Dr. Simon Lin, a leader at the Taiwan Center Foundation of Los Angeles, said at a news conference. “The Taiwan Center is very friendly. It’s open to the public. We never check your background.”
The small community center lacks the budget to hire full-time security, he added.
Louis M. Huang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, said he has confidence in U.S. law enforcement to carry out the investigation and that justice would be served.
He called on Taiwanese Americans to respect differences in opinion but said no one has a right to infringe on other people’s rights or to take someone’s life.
He urged community members to report to the police if they see something that concerns them.
“Don’t keep silent,” he said.
Associated Press journalists John Antczak in Los Angeles and Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.