US church shooter had gun licence

David Chou mugshot
David Chou was arraigned on charges of murder, attempted murder and use of a destructive device. -AP

The Las Vegas man accused of killing one person and wounding five others in a burst of gunfire at a Taiwanese-American church luncheon in California was licensed to work as a security guard who carries a gun, state records show.

David Chou, 68, was arraigned on Tuesday in Orange County on charges of murder, attempted murder and use of a destructive device for allegedly killing a beloved local doctor and wounding five others.

He had worked for three different Las Vegas security firms since 2018, records seen by Reuters show, and was licensed to carry a gun in his work through October 2022.

Chou drove almost 500 kilometres on Saturday from Las Vegas to southern California, heavily armed with two semi-automatic weapons and four incendiary devices, police said.

He attended a church luncheon that a Taiwanese congregation was holding at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, south of Los Angeles, on Sunday before opening fire.

The Taiwan government's office in Los Angeles told Reuters that Chou had been born in Taiwan in 1953, still had an active Taiwanese passport, and had done military service for Taiwan.

But prosecutors say he hated Taiwan and had notes written in Mandarin in his car indicating he was angry about tensions between the island nation and mainland China.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he was strongly considering asking for the death penalty in the case.

"That suspect was ready to kill everybody in that church," Spitzer said on CNN on Tuesday. "It's my belief that he was going to kill everybody and then blow up the church."

The FBI said it was opening a hate-crimes investigation.

Chou was also charged with four felonies related to four Molotov cocktails he allegedly placed behind a curtain at the church.

Up to 40 people were attending a luncheon honouring a former pastor when the shooting began, sheriff's officials said.

Dr John Cheng, 52, who was killed in the incident, was shot when he tackled the gunman, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said, crediting Cheng's bravery with preventing more fatalities.

Cheng's action allowed other congregants to overpower Chou and tie his legs with an electrical cord.

Four men aged from 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman were wounded.