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Community members hold inter-faith vigil for victims of shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods; Speak with Pastor Billy Chang, the man being honored at Sunday’s luncheon

Members of different faiths throughout Orange County gathered in Irvine Monday evening to pay honor and their respects to the victims of the senseless shooting that occurred at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods on Sunday afternoon. 

Dozens of people were in attendance at Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine for the inter-faith vigil, including members of Orange County Sheriff’s Department who responded to the scene and Pastor Billy Chang — the man being honored at the luncheon just moments before the shooting took place.

When Pastor Chang walked in, a round of applause erupted from the crowd, after details emerged revealing that he was not only one of the many churchgoers who worked to detain the suspect, but the one who charged at him, chair in hand, and called for other’s to help. 

CBS reporters spoke with Chang following the conclusion of the vigil, where he detailed all the thoughts that ran through his head and the moment that he and his former congregation came together to prevent further carnage.

“When he shoot about seven or eight… I see our member, our congregation hiding under the table,” he said. 

Chang was previously the pastor for the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, who hold Sunday morning service at Geneva Presbyterian weekly. He had moved back to Taiwan with his wife two years ago and was visiting for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

“Somebody had to take some action,” he continued. “I see his gun is down, so I say, ‘This is a good chance.” So, I go after him.”

He grabbed the first thing he could find, a chair and ran towards the shooting suspect. 

“I bring the chair to hit the gunman. I’m afraid he would pick up his gun to shoot again, so I use my whole strength,” he detailed, motioning what he did to hold the man down before calling from help from his former congregants. 

While he continued to hold him down, with the help of Michael Tsai, who also spoke with CBS reporters on Monday, his wife grabbed the gun and hid it inside of the church’s fridge. 

“I’m still young, I think I have the strength to fight with the shooter,” Chang continued. “I’m thankful because we stopped the tragedy.”

When the churchgoers noticed Dr. John Cheng, the local physician who was fatally shot, lying on the floor, they realized that he had been struck by gunfire three times. 

Cheng was only in attendance at Sunday’s luncheon so he could bring his mother to church, so she could greet her former pastor.

“Pray for the Cheng family,” he said, fighting back tears. “Because of Dr. Cheng, and his mother, come to church for me.”

“His mother was crying, ‘My son, my son, my son,’ said Mrs. Chang. 

Local law enforcement has hailed the acts of those Cheng, Tsai and other members as heroic, stating that they put their own lives on the line to save that of others in the face of imminent danger. 

“That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Jeff Hallock on Saturday.

File source

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