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Doctor killed while tackling US church shooter seen as epitome of kindness


He was known to all as simply Dr. John, the quiet, calm doctor who tutored children in kung fu, finding time between patient appointments to encourage people to learn self-defense.

So it was no surprise to his friends and colleagues that John Cheng spent his final moments saving others by rushing a gunman who opened fire on a Southern California church of mostly older Taiwanese on Sunday. .

Authorities credit Dr. Cheng’s swift action with saving perhaps dozens of lives at a celebratory luncheon for congregants and their former pastor at the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Irvine, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the Orange County community of Laguna Woods.

Prosecutors say the shooter, David Chou, 68, was motivated by hatred of Taiwan, where he was born and raised after his family was driven out of mainland China when the Communists took over.

Mr. Chou spent about an hour with the lunch attendees, apparently to gain their trust so he could carry out his plot, authorities said. He had two 9mm handguns and three bags containing four Molotov cocktail-type incendiary devices and ammunition.

The majority of those inside the church at the time were of Taiwanese descent.(AP: Leonard Ortiz via Orange County Register)

When Mr. Chou started shooting, Dr. Cheng charged at him and was shot. He died at the scene but his quick action disrupted the shooter, who was then hit by a chair thrown by former church pastor Billy Chang and jumped on by three congregation members who used an extension cord to tie it up to the font. arrival.

Dr. Cheng, 52, was the only one killed.

A note from a patient is left at a memorial honoring a victim of gun violence
A note from a patient is left at a memorial in honor of Dr. John Cheng.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Five others were injured, including four men aged 66 to 92 and an 86-year-old woman. All were either discharged from hospital or in stable condition.

“A meeting between good and evil”

“It was a hallmark of Dr. Cheng to go after this shooter,” said Dr. Cheng’s office manager, Erica Triplett.

“It comes as no surprise to any of us. Dr. Cheng exemplified what he was built for – his heroism that saved so many not only in this church, but throughout his career.”

The family and sports medicine doctor was like family to the staff and he encouraged them to learn Kung Fu, believing it was important for people to know self-defense, his friends and colleagues said.

Sheriff Don Barnes called Dr Cheng’s heroism “a meeting of good against evil”.


“Dr. Cheng’s selfless love for others prevented a hate-filled act from claiming more victims than his own,” Barnes said in a tweet.

Those who knew Dr. Cheng said selflessness defined his life.

He started his practice knocking on doors to introduce himself as the area’s new family doctor, said Johnna Gherardini, executive director of the South Coast Medical Group.

Ms. Gherardini took kung fu with her daughter at Dr. Cheng’s request.

“He always taught us to protect ourselves,” she said.

He was remembered by his patients as a worried listener and a note left by a patient taped to his office door, where people laid flowers to pay their respects, described him as “unfathomably kind”.

A man poses for the camera
Ira Angustain said Dr Cheng chose to lay down his life for others.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“I can always be better”

Dr. Cheng’s pastor and close friend, Ira Angustain, took a course with him to learn how to handle a firearm safely.

“We talked about how people were losing their minds and shooting people for no reason,” said Mr Angustain, pastor of Kingdom Covenant Church in the nearby Lake Forest community.

“He didn’t want to feel helpless. He wanted to make sure people were safe.”

On Sunday morning, Dr Cheng texted Mr Angustain to let him know he would not be coming to the service because he was taking his mother to his church.

Dr. Chang, the former pastor of the church and a close friend of hers, wrote to her to express his condolences for the loss of her husband and to tell her that he was from Taiwan.

The church invited her to a service and lunch to see him, and Dr. Cheng drove her mother to the event.

“My heart aches,” the visiting pastor wrote in a statement.

“Evil did not eliminate Dr John,” Mr Angustain said.


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