The sheriff also referred to “China and Taiwan tensions that are current.” Beijing has long claimed Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island, as its own territory, and has threatened to absorb it using force if it deems necessary.
Sam Huang, a member of the Taiwanese community in Laguna Woods, said, however, that the diverse area’s well-established Chinese and Taiwanese communities exhibited few tensions. He is a member of the congregation but did not attend church on Sunday.
“Typically, we try to be friendly,” Mr. Huang said, adding that he occasionally played table tennis, or participated in line dancing at the community center together with other Chinese residents. He added: “Nobody says you are Chinese, and I’m Taiwanese, so we won’t play with you.”
Wei-Ming Tao, 67, a retiree living in Laguna Woods, confirmed that those in the community generally tried to steer clear of politics of any kind in conversations. But she added that the confluence of the coronavirus, the rise in racist acts against people of Asian descent, and Russia’s war in Ukraine had created a simmering environment that was inescapable, even in an ordinary peaceful haven.
“We don’t need this kind of political agenda,” Ms. Tao said. “The hate crimes — we had enough, we don’t need any more.”
The shooting served as another reminder that religious sanctuaries are not immune from the gun violence that has occurred in virtually every public space, from grocery stores to schools. Just 70 miles southeast of Laguna Woods, a man in 2019 killed one woman and injured three people at a synagogue in Poway, a shooting incident that was a hate crime.
The sheriff, meanwhile, called the shooting an example of “the ugliest part” of the divisiveness raging across the country. “At some point we have to put aside our differences,” he said. “And focus on our similarities. And realize we all want the same things.”
Reporting was contributed by Christopher Mele, Vimal Patel, Jill Cowan and Amy Chang Chien.