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Poway synagogue shooting

Poway synagogue shooting
Chabad of Poway is located in San Diego County, California
Chabad of Poway
Chabad of Poway
Chabad of Poway is located in California
Chabad of Poway
Chabad of Poway
Chabad of Poway is located in the United States
Chabad of Poway
Chabad of Poway
LocationChabad of Poway
Poway, California, US
Coordinates33°01′09″N 117°03′11″W / 33.0192°N 117.0531°W / 33.0192; -117.0531
DateApril 27, 2019 (2019-04-27)
11:23 a.m. (PT)
Attack type
Mass shooting
WeaponSmith & Wesson M&P15
  • Lori Gilbert-Kaye
  • Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein
  • and two congregants
MotiveAntisemitism & the white genocide conspiracy theory
AccusedJohn Timothy Earnest

The Poway synagogue shooting occurred on April 27, 2019, when a gunman armed with an AR-15 style rifle[1] fired shots inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California,[2][3] a city approximately 20 miles (32 km) north of San Diego. The attack took place on the last day of the Jewish Passover holiday, which fell on a Shabbat.[4] One woman was killed and three other people were injured, including the synagogue's rabbi.[5][6] After fleeing the scene, the alleged gunman phoned 9-1-1 and reported the shooting. He was apprehended in his car approximately two miles (3.2 km) from the synagogue by a San Diego police officer.


At approximately 11:23 a.m. PDT, a gunman identified as 19-year-old John Timothy Earnest allegedly entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which fell on a Shabbat. Approximately 100 people were inside the synagogue.[7] The gunman carried a Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport II semiautomatic rifle[8] and was wearing a tactical vest which contained five magazines of ten rounds each.[9] In the foyer, the gunman shot and killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, and then wounded Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, the founding rabbi of the congregation.[9] According to witnesses, Gilbert-Kaye had tried to shield the rabbi from the gunman.[10][11][12] The gunman then turned to a side room occupied by several people, including a number of children.[9] He fired into the room, wounding one man with a bullet to the leg; the man's 8-year-old niece was also injured by bullet fragments that hit her face and leg.[9] All the injured were expected to recover,[7][11] although Goldstein lost his right index finger despite four hours of surgery.[13] After the gunman fled, Goldstein spoke to the congregation despite his injury, telling them to stay strong.[14]

The shooter fired eight to ten rounds before his rifle jammed or malfunctioned,[10] preventing additional casualties.[15] Two members of the congregation ran towards the shooter.[16] The suspect then fled the synagogue, entering a Honda sedan.[7][17] Jonathan Morales, an off-duty United States Border Patrolman who was a member of the synagogue,[18] opened fire as the suspect escaped and hit his car multiple times, but the suspect fled uninjured.[7][16][19][18]

Shortly thereafter, Earnest phoned 9-1-1 and reported the shooting.[4] He was apprehended approximately two miles (3.2 km) from the synagogue by a San Diego police officer responding to the shooting. Earnest jumped out of his car with his hands up, and was taken into custody without incident.[19] The rifle, a tactical helmet, and five loaded magazines with 50 rounds, were recovered from Earnest's car; Earnest was wearing a tactical vest when he was arrested.[10]

Surveillance cameras at the synagogue captured video of the shooting.[10] The attack occurred exactly six months after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.[12]


The San Diego County Sheriff's Department identified the suspect as John Timothy Earnest (born June 8, 1999),[20] a 19-year-old male from the San Diego suburb of Rancho Peñasquitos.[21][22] He was a 2017 graduate of Mt. Carmel High School and a nursing school student at California State University San Marcos.[22][23] Officials said he had no previous criminal record or contacts with police, and no known connection to any white supremacist group.[21] The shooter apparently attempted to livestream the shooting on Facebook, but failed.[7]

In an antisemitic and racist open letter posted on 8chan shortly before the shooting and signed with Earnest's name,[24] the author blamed Jews for the supposed white genocide conspiracy theory, which he referred to as the "meticulously planned genocide of the European race". He cited shooters Brenton Harrison Tarrant and Robert Bowers for their involvement in respectively the Christchurch mosque shootings and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, as well as Jesus, Paul the Apostle, Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, Ludwig van Beethoven, Moon Man and Pink Guy for being the figures who inspired him to commit the Poway shooting as well as a joking mention of PewDiePie and referencing "The Day of the Rope" an event from William Luther Pierce's neo-Nazi novel The Turner Diaries (1978) in which Jews, non-whites and liberals are executed including racial slurs targeting African Americans and Hispanics and urged more violent attacks while avoiding arrest.[24] He condemned President Donald Trump as a pro-Zionist traitor.[25][26][27] He also justified his actions by including Bible quotes in his manifesto. The author also claimed responsibility for the March 2019 Escondido mosque fire, about 15 miles (24 km) from Poway.[28][25] That arson attempt was extinguished with only minor damage to the building and no injuries; graffiti left in the parking lot made reference to the earlier Christchurch shooting.[29]

Earnest was a member of the Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which is affiliated with the theologically traditionalist Orthodox Presbyterian Church.[30] According to The Washington Post, the shooter's manifesto, which expressed Christian motivations for killing Jews, led to a social media debate among Christian pastors.[30][31] Rev. Duke Kwon of the Presbyterian Church in America said that the manifesto contains "a frighteningly clear articulation of Christian theology" on certain issues such as salvation, and warned that "There’s a deep and ugly history of anti-Semitism that’s crept into the Christian church, that needs to be continuously addressed, condemned and corrected."[30] Other ministers strongly denied that Christian theology and scripture offer any support for antisemitism. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church issued a statement that "[a]nti-Semitism and racist hatred which apparently motivated the shooter . . . have no place within our system of doctrine."[32] In the alleged shooter's manifesto, he denied that he had learned antisemitic beliefs from his family.[30]

Legal proceedings

On April 30, Earnest was charged in San Diego County Superior Court with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. All four charges included "hate-crime and gun allegations" that can incur heavier penalties upon conviction. The murder charge includes a "special circumstance" that Earnest intentionally killed his victim (Gilbert-Kaye) because of her religion, which could incur the death penalty under California law. Earnest pleaded not guilty to all the charges.[10] A criminal complaint was also filed charging Earnest with arson of a house of worship, a reference to the March arson attempt against a mosque in Escondido.[10] Earnest was ordered held without bail.[10] A trial readiness hearing was scheduled for May 30 and a preliminary hearing for July 8.[33]

On May 14, Earnest was arraigned in US District Court in San Diego on 109 federal charges: 54 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs using a dangerous weapon resulting in death, bodily injury and attempts to kill; 54 counts of hate crimes under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; and one count of damage to a religious property using fire for an earlier arson at Dar-ul-Arquam mosque in Escondido on March 24. Earnest is represented by a federal public defender.[8]


'President Trump Delivers a Statement Upon Marine One Departure' video from White House
Trump listens as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of the Chabad of Poway speaks in the White House Rose Garden on the National Day of Prayer, May 2, 2019
  • President of the United States Donald Trump offered "deepest sympathies to the families of those affected" by the shooting.[34]
  • Vice President of the United States Mike Pence stated "We condemn in the strongest terms the evil & cowardly shooting at Chabad of Poway today as Jewish families celebrated Passover. No one should be in fear in a house of worship. Antisemitism isn't just wrong - it's evil."[35]
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Eric Swalwell published statements condemning the attack.[36]
  • Governor of California Gavin Newsom responded by saying, "No one should have to fear going to their place of worship, and no one should be targeted for practicing the tenets of their faith."[37]
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement which read "[M]oving forward this must serve as yet another wake-up call that antisemitism is a growing and deadly menace. All Americans must unequivocally condemn it and confront it whenever it appears."[38]
  • Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu stated "I condemn the abhorrent attack on a synagogue in California; this is an attack on the heart of the Jewish people. The international community must step up the struggle against anti-Semitism."[39]
  • President of Israel Reuven Rivlin wrote, "The murderous attack on the Jewish community during Pesach, our holiday of freedom, and just before Holocaust Memorial Day, is yet another painful reminder that anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is still with us, everywhere. No country and no society are immune. Only through education for Holocaust remembrance and tolerance can we deal with this plague."[39]
  • At a press conference on the day after the shooting, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was injured in the shooting, called to "battle darkness with light." He suggested that the United States call for a moment of silence in public schools.[40]
  • On April 29, the parents of the suspect issued a formal statement disavowing his actions, reading in part: "To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries." Their attorney noted that the family will not pay for Earnest's defense, instead leaving him to likely be represented by a public defender.[41]
  • The Orthodox Presbyterian Church issued a statement reading in part, "We deplore and resist all forms of anti-Semitism and racism. We are wounded to the core that such an evil could have gone out from our community. Such hatred has no place in any part of our beliefs or practices, for we seek to shape our whole lives according to the love and gospel of Jesus Christ." [42]
  • On May 2, 2019, during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden on the National Day of Prayer, President Trump invited Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and the two men who had chased the suspect out of the building to address the gathering.[43]
  • Goldstein was invited by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon to speak on antisemitism before the UN General Assembly on June 26.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Kimball, Spencer (April 27, 2019). "'It was a hate crime': One dead, three injured in synagogue shooting in San Diego area". CNBC. Archived from the original on April 29, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  2. ^ Van Sant, Shannon (April 27, 2019). "At Least 1 Killed In California Synagogue Shooting". NPR. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Paul, Deanna; Mettler, Katie (April 27, 2019). "Shooting at California synagogue leaves 1 dead, 3 injured in what mayor calls a 'hate crime' that 'will not stand". Washington Post. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Lartey, Jamiles (April 27, 2019). "San Diego synagogue shooting: one dead and three injured". The Guardian. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  5. ^ "Woman killed, 3 injured in shooting at California synagogue". CBS News. April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  6. ^ The Forward; Helen Chernikoff (April 28, 2019). "Rabbi Wounded in Synagogue Shooting Finished Sermon Before Going to Hospital". Haaretz. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e "One dead, three injured in Poway synagogue shooting". San Diego Union Tribune. April 27, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Davis, Kristina (May 14, 2019). "Not guilty plea entered for alleged synagogue shooter on 109 federal charges". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d "Poway synagogue shooting captured on video, prosecutors say, as they describe attack". Los Angeles Times. May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Jason Hanna & Darran Simon (April 30, 2019). "Suspect fired 8 to 10 rounds, prosecutors said". CNN.
  11. ^ a b Karimi, Faith; Silverman, Hollie (April 28, 2019). "She was at the synagogue to mourn her mother. She was killed while protecting the rabbi". CNN. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Here's What We Know About The California Synagogue Shooting". The Forward. April 28, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  13. ^ Johnson, Andrew (April 28, 2019). "'Terror Will Not Win': Rabbi Recalls Poway Synagogue Shooting". KNSD.
  14. ^ Kristina Davis, Sarah Parvini & J. Harry Jones (April 27, 2019). "Rabbi gives sermon of strength after being shot at Poway synagogue". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ Julia Wick, Sarah Parvini & Doug Smith, Rabbi says synagogue gunman’s weapon jammed, preventing 'a blood bath', Los Angeles Times (April 28, 2019).
  16. ^ a b Miller, Ryan W.; Plevin, Rebecca (April 29, 2019). "Meet the Army Veteran and Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent who Chased the San Diego Synagogue Shooter". USA Today. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  17. ^ "Who is John T. Earnest the Alleged San Diego Synagogue Shooter?". April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  18. ^ a b Pink, Aiden. "Poway Rabbi Urged Hero Border Patrol Agent To Pray Armed". The Forward. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  19. ^ a b Johnson, Andrew; Stickney, R. (April 27, 2019). "1 Dead, 3 Injured in Synagogue Shooting in Poway, Deputies Detain Suspect". KNSD.
  20. ^ "One dead, three injured in shooting at synagogue near San Diego; 19-year-old suspect identified". April 27, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  21. ^ a b Jones, Tom (April 27, 2019). "Who Is John T. Earnest? Suspect in Poway Synagogue Shooting". KNSD.
  22. ^ a b Horn, Allison; Carlisle, Cassie (April 27, 2019). "What to know about 19-year-old Poway synagogue shooting John Earnest". KGTV. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  23. ^ Kisken, Tom; Makinen, Julie (April 27, 2019). "San Diego synagogue shooting: what we know about suspect John Earnest". USA Today. Retrieved April 27, 2019. John Earnest, the 19-year-old man detained in Saturday's deadly synagogue shooting in San Diego, was a student at Cal State University San Marcos, school officials said
  24. ^ a b "California police investigate hate-filled 8chan manifesto that could link synagogue shooting to mosque attack". Washington Examiner. April 28, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  25. ^ a b Cleary, Tom (April 27, 2019). "John Earnest: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  26. ^ Seth J. Frantzman (April 28, 2019). "Anti-Trump Antisemitism: The Link Between Pittsburgh and Poway". Jpost.
  27. ^ Davis, Michael (May 15, 2019). "The Anti-Jewish Manifesto of John T. Earnest, the Poway Synagogue Shooter". Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Retrieved June 29, 2019.
  28. ^ Collins, Ben; Blankstein, Andrew (April 27, 2019). "Anti-Semitic open letter posted online under name of Chabad synagogue suspect". NBC News. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  29. ^ Johnson, Andrew (March 24, 2019). "Suspect of Possible Arson Attack at Escondido Mosque Leaves Note Referencing New Zealand Terrorist Attacks". NBC San Diego. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  30. ^ a b c d Zauzmer, Julie (May 1, 2019). "The alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who talked Christian theology, raising tough questions for evangelical pastors". Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  31. ^ Mattingly, Terry (May 2, 2019). "Weaponized Calvinism? Accused shooter said his salvation was assured, no matter what". Get Religion. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  32. ^ Blair, Leonardo (May 2, 2016). "Alleged synagogue shooter John Ernest was regular churchgoer who blamed Jews for killing Jesus". Christian Post. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  33. ^ Plevin, Rebecca; Ortiz, Jorge L.; Shannon, Joel (April 30, 2019). "Prosecutors seek life without parole or death penalty for teen accused in San Diego synagogue attack". USA Today. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  34. ^ "The Latest: Pittsburgh offers condolences after shooting". Fox News. April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  35. ^ "Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter". April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  36. ^ Frazin, Rachael (April 27, 2019). "2020 Dems condemn bigotry, gun violence after synagogue shooting". Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  37. ^ Spagat, Elliot; Nguyen, Daisy (April 27, 2019). "Synagogue shooting kills 1, wounds 3 during Jewish holiday". Associated Press. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  38. ^ "Statement on San Diego County Shooting: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Shooting: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Shocked At Synagogue Shooting". April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  39. ^ a b "Netanyahu condemns 'abhorrent' San Diego synagogue attack". Israel Hayom. April 28, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  40. ^ Pascus, Brian; Martinez, Peter (April 29, 2019). ""We need to battle darkness with light": Rabbi wounded in attack offers inspiration". CBS News. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  41. ^ Miles, Frank (April 29, 2019). "Parents disavow California synagogue suspect, say son is part of 'history of evil'". Fox News. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  42. ^ "A Public Statement on the Shooting at the Chabad Synagogue". Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  43. ^ "Remarks by President Trump at the National Day of Prayer Service". May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
    "Rabbi Wounded In Chabad of Poway Shooting Invited To National Prayer Breakfast In Washington". KPBS. San Diego. City News Service. May 1, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
    McDonald, Jeff (May 2, 2019). "Heroes of Poway terror attack honored by Trump". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
    "Poway rabbi calls Trump 'mensch par excellence' at National Day of Prayer service". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. New York City, USA. May 2, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
  44. ^ "Rabbi Goldstein of Poway to address the GA (press release)". Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. June 20, 2019. Retrieved August 15, 2019.

External links