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Marshall ISD, other schools laud alum’s actions as heroic

Doctor charged at gunman at California church, allowing others to subdue and hog tie him
Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old sports medicine doctor, was voted most likely to succeed when he...
Dr. John Cheng, a 52-year-old sports medicine doctor, was voted most likely to succeed when he attended Marshall High School in Marshall, Texas.(Source: Marshall High School yearbook)
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 4:02 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 8:17 PM CDT
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(KSLA) — He was a 1987 graduate of Marshall High School, a 1991 graduate of Baylor University and a 1995 graduate of Texas Tech University School of Medicine.

And all three agree that Dr. John Cheng died a hero.

Cheng, a 52-year-old sports medicine doctor who lived in California but had strong ties to the ArkLaTex, charged at the gunman at the California church and tried to disarm him. His heroism allowed other parishioners to subdue the gunman and hog tie him with extension cords, authorities said.

Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng’s heroism “a meeting of good versus evil” that probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people.”

People were at Geneva Presbyterian Church to celebrate a pastor’s return. Cheng put his life on the line to help save his mother and others attending the luncheon at the church.

Officials say the shooter went in during lunchtime, chained the doors and tried to gum up the locks with super glue to prevent anyone from escaping. The gunman, identified as David Chou, then started firing, wounding at least five people. That is when Cheng jumped into action.

Cheng’s friends James Runnels and Sam Hammontree were not surprised by what he did.

“It’s like during a war when the guy falls on the grenade to save his buddies. That’s the kind of action John took to save all the people in that church,” said Runnels, who was a Kappa Omega Tau fraternity brother with Cheng at Baylor University.

In high school, Cheng graduated in the top 10% of his class in 1987 and was voted most likely to succeed.

“He did succeed in so many ways, not just as a father, Dad, coaching on the side, martial arts, in his profession but he succeeded in humanity,” said Hammontree, a former classmate.

Runnels and Hammontree both saw Cheng about three years ago at a coffee shop. Now they want to do what they can to keep his name alive.

“On our fraternity alumni Facebook, some friends have brought up the idea of some type of scholarship to honor him,” Runnels said.

“Every now and then, this overwhelming sense of pride fills my heart because I knew this man on friendship basis and I’m proud to call him my friend,” Hammontree said.

Marshall Independent School District posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

“Marshall ISD mourns the loss of Dr. John Cheng, family man, friend, hero and class of 1987 MHS graduate. Prayers will continue to be lifted for his family and friends as well as all of those touched by this tragedy.”

Baylor University posted the following:

Dr. John Cheng died Sunday, literally taking the bullet for fellow congregants while heroically tackling the gunman at...

Posted by Baylor University on Monday, May 16, 2022

And in a statement released to KSLA News 12′s sister station KCBD, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center says Cheng’s actions reflect his lifelong dedication to service. The school honors his death “as heroism in its purest form.”

Cheng graduated from the medical school in Lubbock in 1995, the “proud product” of a family of physicians who immigrated from Taiwan. He was devoted to patient care and carried that practice to southern California.

Here is the full statement from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the School of Medicine:

“Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and the School of Medicine are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of alumnus John Cheng, M.D. We extend our sincerest condolences and prayers to Dr. Cheng’s family, including his wife, and their two children.

“Dr. Cheng’s heroic acts in Sunday’s shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in California reflected his lifelong dedication to service. In a moment of crisis, he placed the lives of his neighbors before himself—and by every account, that act of selflessness and courage, which cost him his life, saved the lives of many others. It was heroism in its purest form.

“Dr. Cheng was a 1995 graduate of the School of Medicine and the proud product of a family of physicians who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan. He earned a reputation as an energetic student who was deeply devoted to patient care and carried that same ethic to his practice in Southern California, where he served the community as a beloved family and sports medicine physician. TTUHSC and the School of Medicine are deeply proud of the example and the legacy he leaves behind.”

Cheng is survived by his wife and 2 children.

James Runnels (right), who was a Kappa Omega Tau fraternity brother with Dr. John Cheng...
James Runnels (right), who was a Kappa Omega Tau fraternity brother with Dr. John Cheng (center) at Baylor University, and Sam Hammontree (left), who was a classmate of Cheng’s at Marshall High, both saw Cheng about three years ago at a coffee shop. Now they want to do what they can to keep his name alive.(Source: Submitted photo)

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