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Police: Volunteer behind church retreat slaying

A gunman opened fire at a Korean Christian retreat center, killing one woman and wounding three others, authorities said.
Image: Investigators use lights from a Riverside Sheriff's car to hold a meeting
Investigators huddle together following the shootings at a Korean Christian retreat in Temecula, Calif., late on Tuesday.Francis Specker / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Authorities in Southern California have identified a man they say opened fire at a Korean religious retreat, killing a woman and wounding a man before being beaten and disarmed in a fight with two other people.

Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Mitchell Alm says the man is 69-year-old John Chong, a volunteer who lives at the Kkottongnae (GOHT'-dohng-nay) Retreat Camp in Temecula, about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles. He was earlier believed to be 72 years old.

Chong is hospitalized and is unconscious.

Authorities have no information on the motive for the violence that broke out Tuesday night.

Alm says the man who was shot is in serious condition and the two other people who were injured in the fight with Chong also remain hospitalized but their conditions are not serious.

Authorities were first called to the rural area about 7 p.m. Tuesday after receiving reports about a man shooting his wife, California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said.

The identity of the dead woman was being withheld until relatives were notified. In addition to the gunman, two men and a woman were hospitalized.

Investigators were still trying to learn the circumstances of the shootings, and were hindered since some of the victims speak only Korean, Riverside County Sheriff's spokesman Dennis Gutierrez said.

"That language barrier, that's the key to figuring out what happened," Gutierrez said.

Catholic group
The Kkottongnae Retreat Camp, located in Temecula about 85 miles southeast of Los Angeles, is one of four U.S. branches of the Kkottongnae Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to serving the poor and homeless. It was founded in the city of Cheongju, South Korea, by Father Oh Woong Jin in 1976.

Kkottongnae means "flower village" in Korean.

The campground, previously used as a summer camp before the group bought it, was marked by a single white sign in English and Korean on the side of a rural winding road in remote southeast Riverside County. The retreat was a mile up a narrow road into the hills.

"We have some nuns that are very distraught," Gutierrez said.

Deputies had evacuated the campground and blocked off access. Nothing could be seen from the main road.

'Last place' for a shootout
Several women from the retreat sat wrapped in blankets outside the law enforcement lines late Tuesday.

"This is the last place this is supposed to happen," Gutierrez said. "A lot of people are shaken up."

Chang Kim, of Los Angeles, stood at the scene, saying his 88-year-old mother lives up the road that was blocked off. Kim said he was concerned because he could not reach her.

"My mother lives up there," he said. "I can't go there. I can't get in. I'm stuck."

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