Today’s Headlines: Laguna Woods shooting was a hate crime, sheriff alleges

A church is framed by a police "do-not-cross" line.
An Orange County sheriff’s deputy with a bomb-sniffing dog checks the exterior of Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods after a shooting Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Tuesday, May 17, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Sheriff: Laguna Woods shooting was a hate crime targeting Taiwanese

The suspect in the Laguna Woods church shooting appeared to be motivated by political hatred directed at the Taiwanese community, Orange County Sheriff’s officials said. While investigators provided few details, they said their investigation suggests the deadly attack was a politically motivated hate incident.


The suspect in the shooting — which left one dead and five injured — has been identified as a 68-year-old Las Vegas man who was born in mainland China and at some point relocated to Taiwan. Among the evidence recovered, Barnes said, were notes written in Chinese that the man left in his car showing he did not believe Taiwan should be an independent state from China.

The churchgoer killed was a sports medicine doctor and master of martial arts who was slain while trying to stop the shooting. Orange County sheriff’s officials said that when the suspect began shooting, Dr. John Cheng put himself in the line of fire and tried to prevent others from being shot.

Black Buffalo residents want Biden to call out racism and white supremacy

The White House said President Biden will travel to Buffalo today to grieve with victims and their family members after what police described as a racially motivated mass shooting that left 10 people dead. But members of that tightknit community say they want more from the president than his condolences.

With the nation’s eyes on the east side of Buffalo — an older, predominantly Black community — residents said the president has an opportunity to help those families heal and call out racism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism. An 18-year-old white man has been charged with traveling across the state to kill Black people inside the neighborhood’s only supermarket.

More politics

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India is dangling by a thread in the Senate, with several Democrats continuing to express hesitation over the nomination.
  • This week, Karine Jean-Pierre takes on her highest-profile role yet, as Biden’s official spokesperson, a high-pressure job with little room for error.
  • “Oregon’s Joe Manchin”? Columnist Mark Z. Barabak looks at the battle between U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), who has belittled Nancy Pelosi and defended Donald Trump, and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who says she’s running as a real Democrat.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

Russia takes Mariupol but sees setbacks elsewhere

After weeks of Russian bombardment, a band of Ukrainian soldiers fighting from a battered Mariupol steel plant ended combat operations, giving Moscow full control of a strategic port city that has been turned into a ruin of empty buildings and mass graves.

The city became a symbol of defiance in a siege that turned Ukrainian soldiers into heroes, tested Russian firepower and underscored President Vladimir Putin’s resolve to win a major coastal city. Seizing Mariupol would allow him a path from Russian-controlled territory in the east to the Black Sea.

The apparent Russian victory in Mariupol was a rare success for a country facing mounting setbacks both diplomatically and on the battlefield. After 12 weeks of war, Russia has yet to meet any of its major objectives. It is also faced with the prospect of an expanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization — one of the very things that Putin has said he aimed to prevent by invading Ukraine.

L.A. County health officials urge mask-wearing

Los Angeles County’s coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are rising again, causing health officials to urge residents to put masks back on if they have stopped doing so. L.A. County already requires mask-wearing on public transit and at its airports, and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged residents to wear masks inside schools, stores and workplaces.

Ferrer has strongly recommended indoor mask use ever since the L.A. County Department of Public Health ended its 7½-month universal mask order on March 4. But Ferrer’s message seemed to take a more urgent tone this week, with coronavirus-positive hospitalizations rising 29% in the last week, to 312 as of Sunday.

A man in a mask holds his hand on the head of a man in a hospital bed who is hooked up to a respirator.
Hospital chaplain Kevin Deegan prays over Alexander Frazier, 53, at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center on Jan. 12 in Mission Hills. Frazier died Jan. 27. Deegan recently spoke of his pandemic experiences.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

More top coronavirus headlines

  • The milestone has arrived: America’s 1 millionth COVID-19 death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
  • To avoid an epic surge in homelessness during the pandemic, state and local officials restricted evictions and lawsuits to collect unpaid rent. Some of the state restrictions on landlords have now expired, leaving eviction bans and rent deferrals in place only in Los Angeles and other select cities.
  • The mRNA technology that brought us fast COVID-19 vaccines also fueled conspiracy theories. A new vaccine from Novavax does it the old-fashioned way, but will it win over skeptics?
  • Benny Gallo loved his scouting job, but that changed when the Washington Nationals required him to get vaccinated. Now he is fighting to get his job back.

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

Baby formula maker says an agreement was reached to reopen plant

Baby formula manufacturer Abbott and the Food and Drug Administration agreed on a consent decree outlining the steps necessary to resume production at the company’s Sturgis, Mich., plant, which shut down due to safety issues earlier this year.

Once the court accepts the decree and the FDA determines that the steps necessary to restart the plant have been met, Abbott could resume production at the site within two weeks. It would take an additional six to eight weeks before the formula produced would be available on shelves.

The company will also continue to import formula from an FDA-registered facility in Ireland to help alleviate near-term supply shortage, according to the release. The FDA is expected to make an announcement soon about making it easier to import formula from facilities it has approved in other countries.

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Malachi Mitchell wears a yellow uniform and flips in the air above the pitcher's mound as his teammates cheer.
Baseball gets flipped on its head when the Savannah Bananas hit town. In exhibition games, the Georgia team tests a radical version of the sport. In May, Malachi Mitchell flips in Kansas City, Kan.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


A California law requiring women on corporate boards is ruled unconstitutional. Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis found the state could not prove that the “use of a gender-based classification was necessary to boost California’s economy, improve opportunities for women in the workplace, and protect California taxpayers, public employees, pensions and retirees.”

In rural California, Republican Brian Dahle is planting the seeds of a campaign for governor. With the California Republican Party’s endorsement, the conservative legislator and farmer is favored to finish in the top two in the June 7 primary. That’s the easy part. Once November comes, he faces the grim reality that Democrats outnumber Republicans in California by an almost 2-1 ratio.

California properties at risk of wildfire are expected to see a sixfold increase in 30 years. Just over 100,000 properties in the state have a 1% or greater annual chance of being affected by wildfire. The number is expected to reach about 600,000 by 2052, according to the data from First Street Foundation.

‘A walk back in time’: Where two rivers join, California will get a new state park. The 2,500-acre property at Dos Rios Ranch — a property in Stanislaus County, 10 miles southwest of Modesto — will be accessible to the public within a year, said State Parks Director Armando Quintero.

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The Supreme Court struck down the limit on post-election gifts to winners. The Supreme Court has ruled for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), striking down the legal limit on how much candidates can collect from big donors after an election is over. Siding with Cruz, the court’s conservative majority said the $250,000 limit on post-election gifts to winning candidates violates their right to free speech.

White House moves to loosen restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba and lift Trump-era restrictions. These measures and the pandemic contributed to an economic crisis in Cuba, where people suffer from shortages of basic products, power outages and rationing.

Energy-producing states struggle to replace fossil fuel tax revenue. Energy-producing states are reaping a windfall from soaring oil and natural gas prices, making it that much harder to tackle climate change.

An independent probe points to Israeli fire in an Al Jazeera reporter’s killing. As Israel and Palestinians wrangle over the investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, several independent groups have launched their own probes, including one research team that says its initial findings lend support to Palestinian witnesses who say she was killed by Israeli fire.


‘Rust’ producers plan to complete the movie after a sheriff’s investigation concludes. Several months after Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins while on the set of “Rust,” one of the film’s producers says he and others plan to forge ahead.

Harry Styles is definitely in love — and other takeaways from his bop-heavy new album. After listening to the singer’s latest studio album early and on repeat (for science), we can confirm that “Harry’s House” is chock-full of summertime bops, jubilant horn sections and lyrical nods to L.A. — as well as what appears to be a sonic love letter to “Don’t Worry Darling” director Olivia Wilde, whom Styles is rumored to be dating.

Our sincerest apologies, Benedict. ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 is for Colin and Penelope. According to Lady Whistledown herself, the forthcoming season of Netflix’s hit period drama will sideline Colin’s elder brother, Benedict (Luke Thompson), and will instead dive into the relationship of the characters played by Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan.

At 74, Maye Musk — yes, Elon’s mom — becomes the oldest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Musk is one of four women — the others being Kim Kardashian, Ciara and Yumi Nu — to have received their own Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers this year.


McDonald’s is selling off in Russia over the Ukraine war. More than three decades after it became the first American fast-food chain to open a restaurant in the Soviet Union, McDonald’s said it had started the process of selling its business in Russia. It’s another symbol of the country’s increasing isolation over its war in Ukraine.

Finding a place to rent in Los Angeles has become a competitive sport. The number of apartments available for rent in L.A. County is the lowest it’s been in two decades. The booming job market isn’t helping.


The state attorney general asks for a hold on the Angel Stadium land sale amid a corruption probe. In an affidavit, an FBI agent said there was probable cause that Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu “may have engaged in criminal offenses,” putting into question the legality of the deal.

More about those Bananas (see Photo of the Day above): First base coach and professional dancer Maceo Harrison says when he started, he “did not know a lick about baseball.” What he could do was dance. Franchise owner Jesse Cole said he “always wanted a breakdancing first-base coach.” Also: Here are the Savannah Banana rules of the game, including: “Run don’t walk.” The moment the umpire calls “ball four,” the batter takes off sprinting while the defense must throw the ball to every fielder, including outfielders.

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The stories we will tell ourselves about the shooting in Buffalo. Everyone has a story to tell, but not all of them are true, writes columnist LZ Granderson. What will your story be about the Buffalo shooting suspect? Will you dub him a “lone wolf”? A symptom of some new violence brewing? An example of the violence that’s always been?

‘I covered the first $3-billion budget in 1963. Now Newsom could crack $300 billion.’ At this rate, some young Capitol reporter covering Newsom’s $300-billion budget will be around to opine about the first $1-trillion spending plan. Columnist George Skelton suggests using state Treasurer Jesse Unruh’s famous adjective: “obscene.”


Here’s a specific and personal story about an L.A. ADU. “Like many immigrants, the people my husband and I loved the most were farthest away. If we wanted my husband’s family to come from Hong Kong to meet our unborn child one day, we’d need to provide them a place to stay,” writes Xuan Juliana Wang.

Like many Angelenos, the answer was inevitable for Wang and her architect husband: Build an ADU. The process of converting their old garage into a living space fit for guests proved more challenging than they anticipated, but the final result brought their family together.


A woman in white holds a Bible in her left hand as she extends her other hand toward the ceiling.
Circa 1923: Aimee Semple McPherson speaks in front of a microphone at Angelus Temple.
(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-six years ago this week, on May 18, 1926, Aimee Semple McPherson vanished. The Times wrote the next day that the popular evangelist had “mysteriously disappeared while swimming at Venice beach under circumstances that lead police to believe that she was drowned.”

Smithsonian Magazine wrote in 2013 that rescuers had labored to find “Sister Aimee”: They dynamited the waters of Santa Monica Bay, hoping to raise her body. A grieving young church member drowned herself. A diver died while trying to find McPherson’s body. Then two ransom notes were delivered to the evangelist’s mother: One said that unless half a million dollars was paid in cash, McPherson would be sold into “white slavery.”

About a month after her disappearance, McPherson turned up in a small Mexican town, claiming she’d escaped kidnappers by sawing through ropes and walking through the desert. Newspapers accused her of fraud, saying she’d been spotted in Northern California. The rumor most widely believed was that McPherson had fled with a married radio engineer, with whom she regularly worked. He disappeared just when she did. Charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice were brought against McPherson, but they were eventually dropped.

A 2018 Opinion piece in The Times on the faith healer and early radio preacher — a colorful and sometimes contentious character who built L.A.’s Angelus Temple — said “her persistent good works in later years went a long way toward redeeming her reputation in the eyes of many Angelenos, some of whom loved her so much that they could forgive her anything.”

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