Man Charged in Church Shooting; Reportedly Was Spurned By Former MemberAP , Associated Press
Mar. 7, 1988 11:23 PM ET
EMPORIA, KAN. EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) _ A man who drove up to a Baptist church and then allegedly opened fire on worshipers had been spurned by a woman who used to belong to the congregation, a church member said Monday.
One person was killed and four wounded in the Sunday morning shooting spree at Calvary Baptist Church. Parishioners wrestled the gunman to the ground after a church trustee chased him outside and struck him with a hymnal.
Police identified the man as Cheun-phon Ji, 29, a native of Taiwan who earned a master's in business administration from Emporia State University in December 1984. He returned to this eastern Kansas community of 26,000, about 110 miles southwest of Kansas City, ''just minutes before the assault,'' said Police Chief Larry Blomenkamp.
Ji was charged Monday with one count of first-degree murder. He also was charged with six counts of attempted first-degree murder involving the four people who were wounded and two others who were shot at.
As he was being brought to the courthouse past a crowd of journalists, Ji was asked by a cameraman why the shootings occurred. He shouted: ''Justice, revenge.''
Magistrate Judge Francis Towle set bond at $1 million. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 31.
Investigators on Monday sought people who knew Ji when he lived in Emporia as they tried to find a motive.
Renita Rothe, 34, a member of the congregation, said Ji had attended Bible classes in her home in 1983 or 1984 with a woman he hoped to marry.
The unidentified woman, who still lives in Emporia, had met Li through her work but was not interested in him romantically.
''She just wanted to share the Lord with him,'' she said. ''But we knew he was different. He had a different kind of religion, you know, Buddha and all that.''
Ms. Rothe said Ji attended only two classes, and rarely spoke during them. When the woman refused his proposal for her to marry him and return to Taiwan to care for his parents, he became bitter, Ms. Rothe said. He also was ''really upset'' when she married someone else two years ago, she said.
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Donald Kusmaul, said the man and parishioners exchanged words as he was subdued, and that among the epithets he was told the man hurled at the congregation members was ''white supremacist cult.''
Kusmaul, pastor of the 150-member congregation for 17 years, said he had never seen the man until he walked into the church, interrupting the singing of ''Like A River Glorious Is God's Perfect Peace'' with a burst of gunfire from a semiautomatic pistol.
Usher Scott Davies said he was about to offer a church bulletin when the man pulled a gun from a bag, aimed it at him and fired.
''I jumped behind a wall ... and looked back out to make sure what was happening was real, and it was,'' said Davies. ''He began shooting across the auditorium itself, randomly, at people, about five or six shots.
''There was about five, six seconds of just silence, and then there began to be cries and screams, hollers,'' Davies said. ''It was just chaotic.''
Police said Ji, who was wearing ear protectors, was trying to reload a 9mm gun when church trustee Jerry Waddell, 46, rose and ran toward him, chasing him outside and striking him with a hymnal. Other men from the congregation joined in pursuit and tackled him, then held him until police arrived.
Police said they found two other guns, both .44-caliber Magnum pistols, and several hundred rounds of ammunition in a duffel bag Ji carried.
''I thank God that no more were killed,'' said Kusmaul, 43. ''He had the capability, the firepower, to wipe out a number of people.''
Blomenkamp and Kusmaul praised Waddell for confronting the gunman.
''I'm sure he'd want the glory to go to the Lord, but he was the hero of the day,'' said Kusmaul. ''If we had all stayed down, he would have just taken the other clips and kept shooting.''
Waddell played down his role, and said, ''It's a real tragedy for the church, and I feel sorry for the members of the church who were injured and lost people.''
Thomas G. DeWeese, 47, a farmer and father of five from rural Americus, was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest, officials said. His daughter, Beverly, 18, suffered a flesh wound and was released from a hospital after treatment. Daniel Goza, 14, of Emporia, was also treated and released.
Still hospitalized Monday were Sandra Mattix, 43, of Emporia, in fair condition with a shoulder wound, and Robert Adamson, 14, in good condition with a thigh wound.
Blomenkamp said Ji apparently entered the United States in 1982. Kim Maxwell, director of university relations, said Ji listed an address in Hacienda Heights, Calif., when he enrolled and was known as Paul while studying here.
Ms. Maxwell said school records show Ji moved to Flushing, N.Y., when he left Emporia in January 1985. Blomenkamp said the investigation indicated Ji spent time at unspecified locations in New York and California; his Cadillac had California plates.