Dr. John Cheng was the only fatality in the shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, largely thanks to his own heroism. Witnesses at the church say Cheng, a sports physician, tackled the gunman so that other parishioners could disarm and subdue him — but not before taking a fatal bullet himself.
“Literally the meeting of good versus evil, between Dr. Cheng and the suspect in this case,” said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in a statement.
Cheng was credited with preventing what could have been a far more devastating mass shooting at the church, which was the site of just one of a rash of mass shootings that rattled the U.S. last weekend. His courage made him a “a hero in this incident,” according to Barnes. “Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is no doubt that there would be numerous additional victims in this crime,” he confirmed.
Reports say Cheng was not a member of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which was meeting in the building at the time, but was there with his elderly mother, who was attending for the first time since her husband had passed away last month.
Cheng was a physician with the South Coast Medical Group, and came from a long line of physicians. According to the group’s website, he also volunteered for Aliso Niguel High School’s football program as the team physician and was a regular donor to the school. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
“Dr. Cheng was a great man, a proud father, husband and always genuine. He always had a smile on his face,” the group said in a statement. “Hearing the news of his death is devastating as he just performed our annual athletic physicals last week. He is gone too soon and we will miss him dearly.”
“He sacrificed himself so that others could live,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “That irony in a church is not lost on me.”