I have the wind knocked out of me right now.
I am saddened, sickened, and unbelievably proud simultaneously. The maelstrom of emotions that I am experiencing is having a physical effect on me.
The trees are duller, the grass less vibrant, the birds sing lowered songs and they offer no respite to our sadness.
On Sunday of this last week, a monster appeared before us, and a hero acted with supreme selflessness and extreme determination to save the lives of others.
The monster was a deranged man from Las Vegas; a man who felt slighted by the Taiwanese community, and evidently a proponent of the policies of mainland China. Whatever demons he had residing in him, they compelled him to engage in his own act of foreign policy.
He left Las Vegas with two handguns and made his way to South Orange County. He surveyed a church in Laguna Woods and decided he was going to take the lives of innocent people, because… well… who knows what actually compelled him to engage in barbarism? (And, honestly… outside of preventing this from happening again… who really cares about this piece of human excrement?)
What we do know is that a hero was also present that day. A hero that happens to be a good friend of mine and my wife, my daughter’s physician, and a longtime member of the Artemis Defense Institute.
Dr. John Cheng is… was… just that. A hero. His greatest achievement, ultimately, was laying down his life so that others may live.
Three weeks ago John, the LTC, and I got together for lunch. It was our pathetic way of thanking him for a massive amount of work he had done for us pro bono. When Dr. Cheng learned about our trial down in San Diego, and realized that our client was a military NCO, who was suffering a severe injustice, he volunteered to serve as an expert witness. The amount of forensic work he performed for this soldier’s defense was staggering. After the case was over, our client reached out to John to tell him how grateful he was. John’s response was typical…
“You have sacrificed so much for my family and me… this is the least I can do.”
That was John.
John’s step-father passed away a few months ago. He has been consoling his mother. She had reached the point where she wanted go out to church. John decided he would take her, hence his presence at that church that fateful morning… he was chaperoning his mother.
When the monster arrived, people started getting shot. John did the unimaginable… he rushed the shooter. He tackled the monster and held him at bay. His act of extreme bravery compelled other parishioners to act as well. Ultimately, they were able to subdue the shooter and save countless lives.
Sadly, in the scrum John was fatally struck by the shooter.
He was the single fatality that day.
He risked his life, gave his life, so that others may live.
John made a split-second decision to not tolerate tyranny. We talked often about the concept of tyranny and injustice.
John would oftentimes book both my 9am and 12pm “Range Day with Steven and Sandy”, a live-fire shoot at Prado. It was his opportunity to get out of the office and train with live fire. During those shoots, and especially during the one-hour break between classes, John would bring me lunch and we would talk about philosophy, medicine, and politics.
From those conversations, I learned John and I shared a similar hatred towards tyranny. John felt that when confronting those who would use force against another, a duty existed to resist the tyrant.
He trained for two reasons he told me: one, because he wanted to know that his skills, both ballistic and non-ballistic, were as sharp as possible should the need arise, and, two, because it was just plain fun.
That mindset saved lives last Sunday.
Dr. Cheng is survived by his wife and two children. We will always miss him and be inspired by him.
We lost a hero last Sunday… his memory, though, will never fade.