The man who was killed in Sunday’s shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church was a highly-regarded sports physician who heroically tackled the gunman, allowing other parishioners to tackle and subdue him — but not before taking fatal gunfire himself.
Dr. John Cheng, 52, was the one fatality in what could have been an even more devastating mass. In a news conference Monday, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes unequivocally called Cheng “a hero in this incident.”
Cheng charged the suspect, identified as 68-year-old David Chou of Las Vegas, and tackled him, and was subsequently hit by gunfire, Barnes said.
“Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is no doubt that there would be numerous additional victims in this crime,” Barnes said.
Cheng was a physician specializing in sports medicine with the South Coast Medical Group. In a video featured prominently on the medical group’s website, he says he came from a family of physicians and was inspired to do the same by his father’s work caring for a small Texas community. He was reportedly not a regular church attendee, but was accompanying his elderly mother to services.
“Evil was in that church yesterday,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said. Spitzer described a church luncheon that had been violently disrupted, with tables and containers of popcorn overturned, and a walker that had been abandoned.
Cheng had been one of the youngest congregants at the church on Sunday, and Spitzer said the doctor took it upon himself to charge across the room and do everything he could to disable the gunman.
“He sacrificed himself so that others could live,” Spitzer said. “That irony in a church is not lost on me.”