A 69-year-old Las Vegas man accused of killing a doctor and wounding five other people during a mass shooting at a Taiwanese Presbyterian church event in Laguna Woods nearly a year ago is now facing nearly 100 federal hate crime, weapons and explosives counts, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
An indictment returned Wednesday by a grand jury at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana charges David Wenweii Chou of 45 counts of obstructing free exercise of religious beliefs by force, which prosecutors say resulted in one death and attempts to kill 44 others through the use of a gun, explosives or fire.
The federal indictment also charges Chou with 45 counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by attacking the church congregants “because of their actual or perceived Taiwanese national origin and Presbyterian faith,” as well as six counts of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building by means of fire and explosives and one count of carrying explosives during the commission of a federal felony offense.
If convicted of the federal charges, Chou could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Chou was already facing special circumstances murder, attempted murder and hate crimes charges in Orange County Superior Court and is being held in county jail. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is scheduled to return to state court in July for a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. State prosecutors have not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more.
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