A 19-year-old suspect, John Earnest, is in custody after a shooting at a San Diego synagogue on April 27, which left one person dead and three others wounded. The shooting took place at Congregation Chabad of Poway, north of San Diego, on the last day of Passover.
All four victims from the shooting were received by Palomar Medical Center Poway. One patient, a 60-year-old woman identified as Lori Kaye, died at the hospital. The other three victims are reportedly doing well with their injuries.
A 57-year-old rabbi suffered defensive wounds from shots to his index fingers, and later lost his right index finger. Both a 34-year-old man and a girl, whose age has not been released, had shrapnel injuries. The girl was transferred to a children’s hospital, and was reported to be suffering from wounds in one leg and in the face.
A user identifying as “JohnTEarnest” posted an open letter on anonymous far right message board, 8chan, hours prior to the shooting. The letter referenced attacks on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand, and praised the Christchurch shooter as being a source of inspiration. The user also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a mosque in Escondido earlier in the month.
According to a statement from San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, authorities are aware of the open letter and are “collecting digital evidence” to “determine its validity and authenticity.” John Earnest is now under investigation in connection with the mosque fire, and is being interviewed by detectives and the FBI. As of May 4, he has been charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Sheriff Gore reported that the gunman entered the synagogue at 11:23 a.m. while screaming anti-Semitic slurs and opened fire with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle before fleeing the scene. Although it is still unclear as to why he fled, the sheriff speculated that it may be due to a gun malfunction.
After fleeing, the suspect called 911 to announce his involvement in the shooting and his location. A San Diego K-9 officer was dispatched to the location, and the shooter surrendered.
A witness told KGTV that there were “six or seven shots followed by screams and then another volley of shots.” The witness also noted that “the wounded rabbi tried to calm the gunman and members of the congregation.”
According to congregation member Minoo Anvari, the rabbi refused to go to hospital after having been shot in the hand at close range and instead addressed the congregation in a speech calling for unity and praying for peace
“I got up there and just spoke from my heart, giving everyone the courage,” he said.
“It was just 70 years ago during the Holocaust [that] we were gunned down like this, and I just want to let our fellow Americans know that we are not going to let this happen here.
“I cannot erase [Earnest’s] face from my mind—I cannot erase the moment, and it’s going to be embedded here forever with the loss of my index finger. It’s going to be a scar for the rest of my life—both to remind us about literally how vulnerable we are but also how brave we need to be.
“Terror will not win. As Americans, we cannot cower in the face of the senseless hate that is in anti-Semitism.”