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Shooting at U.S. church with Taiwanese members leaves 1 dead, 5 hurt

California authorities detain suspect, look into hate crime motive

Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods in the U.S. state of California on May 15 after a fatal shooting. (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) -- One person was killed and four others were critically wounded in a shooting Sunday afternoon at a Presbyterian church in a suburban Southern California community where the majority of residents are seniors, officials said. A suspect was in custody.

The shooting was reported shortly before 1:30 p.m. at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the city of Laguna Woods, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said on Twitter.

A man died at the scene and a fifth injured person suffered minor injuries, officials said. All the victims were adults.

Deputies detained a suspect, an adult male, and recovered a weapon, officials said.

About 30 people witnessed the violence, said Carrie Braun, a sheriff's spokesperson. The majority of those inside the church are believed to be of Taiwanese descent, Braun said.

Investigators were looking at many factors, including whether the bloodshed could be a hate crime and whether the gunman was known to the church community, Braun said.

The gunfire erupted during a lunch reception honoring a former pastor of a Taiwanese congregation that has services at Geneva, according to a statement from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos, a church administrative body.

"Please keep the leadership of the Taiwanese congregation and Geneva in your prayers as they care for the those traumatized by this shooting," the presbytery's Tom Cramer said in a statement on Facebook.

More details were expected from a sheriff's department news conference scheduled for 5 p.m.

Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the scene. The FBI was also sending agents to the scene to assist the sheriff.

Laguna Woods was built as a senior living community and later became a city. More than 80% of residents in the city of 18,000 people about 80 km southeast of Los Angeles are at least 65.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said on Twitter that he was closely monitoring the situation.

"No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event," the tweet said.

The incident occurred in an area with a cluster of houses of worship, including Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist churches and a synagogue.

On its website, Geneva Presbyterian Church describes its mission as "to remember, tell, and live the way of Jesus by being just, kind, and humble."

"All are welcome here. Really, we mean that! ... Geneva aspires to be an inclusive congregation worshipping, learning, connecting, giving and serving together."

The shooting came a day after an 18-year-old man shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

"This is upsetting and disturbing news, especially less than a day after a mass shooting in Buffalo," said U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, whose district includes Laguna Woods. "This should not be our new normal. I will work hard to support the victims and their families."

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