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Las Vegas neighbors describe accused California church shooter

Police called it a political hate crime
David Chou with courtesy.jpg
California Church Shooting
Posted at 11:59 AM, May 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-17 19:39:16-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — David Chou, the man police identified as the gunman who shot six people in a Laguna Woods, Calif. church on Sunday, is from Las Vegas.

He owned an apartment building near Twain Avenue and Decatur Boulevard, where he also lived. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police served a search warrant there and took a cell phone and some other items into evidence.

Police will look into whether Chou planned his attack here in Las Vegas before driving to the Geneva Presbysterian Church, where a Taiwanese congregation worshiped.

RELATED: Laguna Woods church gunman may have ties to Las Vegas

Clark County records show the building Chou owned changed hands several times — between Chou and his wife, and then to their two sons. One son now lives in Taiwan with Chou's wife.

"He sold his building and his wife had lung cancer, so she left to Taiwan. She couldn't come back or anything like that, unfortunately," said neighbor Balmore Orellana. He was David Chou's tenant and next-door neighbor for five years.

Orellana says Chou and his wife often had loud arguments before she moved out of the country.

There's one other family member still living in the United States, but police didn't say who or where. We believe it is Chou's other son, but he has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

We've also learned Chou worked as a licensed security guard in Las Vegas.

"He was a security guard right here at the Venetian/Palazzo, for the conventions," said Orellana. "And he would work 12 to 16 hours a day, but they would only call him like, once a month."

A spokesperson for The Venetian Resort Las Vegas said Chou has never been employed by The Venetian, The Palazzo or The Venetian Expo.

State records show Chou worked for several private security companies, and police say his Nevada guard license enabled him to legally carry a gun.

Police say Chou had two 9mm semi-automatic pistols, which he bought legally in Las Vegas — one in 2015 and the other in 2017. Chou was the original purchaser.

MORE: Suspected gunman in California church shooting identified, police say he was motivated by hate

Deadly mass shooting in California, motivated by hate police say

"And to show the intent of this specific suspect during the course of his arranging his assault, we located several bags within the facility. They contained magazines with additional ammo, and four Molotov cocktail-like incendiary devices that he had placed around the inside of the church." said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes.

Police say Chou chained and nailed the church doors shut and disabled locks with super glue.

"We're still trying to determine why he targeted this specific church," Barnes said. "We can tell you that from a national framework, the Taiwanese Presbyterian is not a large congregant location. And if you look at proximity to Vegas, this may have just been the closest in proximity based on the target of his hatred of that particular group."

In the car he drove to the church, police found notes written in Mandarin to support his hatred of the Taiwanese people.

"I believe his hatred of Taiwan manifested when he was residing there in previous years, possibly in his youth. He was not well received while living there, according to what we've collected so far," Barnes said.

READ: Taiwan's president condemns California church shooting

Chou is Chinese, and he is a U.S. citizen.

"During the time I met him, he was a sweet old man," said Orellana. "He brought gifts by for my kids every day, like candy or rice, cooking oil or beans... or anything."

To him, Chou was a good, attentive landlord who routinely checked on his tenants and tried to keep crime out of the complex. But he says that wasn't the case for all.

"Some previous tenants came and kind of beat him up really bad to where they almost killed him," Orellana said. "You can see the scars on his head. You see the scars all over his arm, all over his chest."

Orellana said he last saw Chou in February.

"His mental shift started acting up two months prior to that when he was losing his building," Orellana said. "And from there on, he was trying to get government help, and I know he was being rejected. A week before he disappeared, he told me that he was going to live in the streets, but he just didn't know where. He said that he was going to do his best to live in his car."

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said: "I'm in shock. You can't help but feel scared knowing somebody so close is so dangerous. It's terrorizing."

We've asked Metro whether Chou had any criminal history here in Las Vegas, and we're still waiting for a response.

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