Poway Synagogue Shooting
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Poway Synagogue Shooting

Poway synagogue shooting
Part of mass shootings in the United States
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 / 33.0191°N 117.0531°W / 33.0191; -117.0531Coordinates: 33°01?09?N 117°03?11?W / 33.0191°N 117.0531°W / 33.0191; -117.0531
DateApril 27, 2019 (2019-04-27)
11:23 a.m. (PT)
Attack type
Mass shooting, hate crime
WeaponSmith & Wesson M&P15 Sport II
PerpetratorJohn 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, United States,[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 gunman, John Timothy Earnest, 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.

After arraignment in late 2019, Earnest was scheduled to be tried on multiple state charges in June 2020; the state announced it would seek the death penalty. The federal government had also filed hate crime charges. The trial was originally intended to start in June 2020, but it was delayed until at least March 15, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


At approximately 11:23 a.m. PDT, a gunman identified as 19-year-old John Timothy Earnest 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]

Earnest carried a Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport II semiautomatic rifle[8] and was wearing a tactical vest containing five magazines of ten rounds each.[9] In the foyer, he shot and killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, and then wounded Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who had founded the congregation.[9] According to witnesses, Gilbert-Kaye had tried to shield the rabbi from the gunman.[10][11][12]

Earnest 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, and his 8-year-old niece.[9] All the injured were expected to recover.[7][11] Goldstein lost his right index finger from the shooting, despite four hours of surgery.[13] After Earnest fled, Goldstein spoke to the congregation despite his injury, telling them to stay strong.[14]

Earnest fired eight to ten rounds before his rifle jammed or malfunctioned,[10] which prevented his creating additional casualties.[15] Two members of the congregation ran toward the shooter.[16] Earnest 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 and hit Earnest's car multiple times, but he fled uninjured.[7][16][19][18]

Shortly thereafter, the suspect phoned 9-1-1 and reported the shooting himself.[4] Earnest was apprehended approximately two miles (3.2 km) from the synagogue by a San Diego police officer responding to the shooting. Earnest left his car and surrendered, 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 neighborhood 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]

An anti-semitic and racist open letter was posted on 8chan shortly before the shooting and signed with Earnest's name.[24] It said that Jews were preparing a "meticulously planned genocide of the European race", a white genocide conspiracy theory. In the alleged shooter's manifesto, he denied that he had learned anti-semitic beliefs from his family.[25]

Earnest is believed to have written the letter, in which he cited shooters Brenton Tarrant and Robert Bowers for their involvement in the Christchurch mosque shootings and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, respectively. He said that Jesus, Paul the Apostle, Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, Ludwig van Beethoven, "Moon Man" and Pink Guy were figures who inspired him to commit the shooting. Earnest made a joking mention of PewDiePie and referenced "The Day of the Rope", an event from William Luther Pierce's neo-Nazi novel The Turner Diaries (1978), in which African Americans and Hispanics are executed and urged more violent attacks.[24] He condemned President Donald Trump as a pro-Zionist traitor.[26][27][28]

In what officials called a manifesto, Earnest claimed responsibility for the March 2019 Escondido mosque fire, which took place about 15 miles (24 km) from Poway.[29][26] That arson attempt was extinguished with only minor damage to the building and no injuries; graffiti left in the parking lot referred to the earlier Christchurch shooting in New Zealand.[30]

Earnest was a member of the Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which is affiliated with the theologically traditionalist Orthodox Presbyterian Church.[25] According to The Washington Post, the shooter's manifesto, which expressed Christian motives for killing Jews, resulted in a social media debate among Christian pastors.[25][31]

Rev. Duke Kwon of the Presbyterian Church in America expressed concern that the alleged shooter could articulate a Christian theology of personal salvation while also espousing anti-Semitism. He and other ministers denied that Christian theology and Scripture provide support for anti-Semitism. 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]

Legal proceedings

On April 30, 2019, 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", which can incur more severe 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]

On December 5, the court announced a trial date of June 2, 2020. This date was delayed due to the COVID 19 epidemic and the San Diego County District Attorney's office will seek the death penalty. Prosecutors scheduled a press conference to discuss trial details on March 5 and the trial will not occur until at least March 15, 2021.[34] On July 20, 2021, Earnest pleaded guilty to the charges.[35][36][37][38]


'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.[39]
  • 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."[40]
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Eric Swalwell published statements condemning the attack.[41]
  • 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."[42]
  • 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."[43]
  • 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."[44]
  • 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."[44]
  • 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.[45]
  • 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.[46]
  • 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."[47]
  • 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 synagogue to address the gathering.[48]
  • Goldstein was invited by Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon to speak on antisemitism before the UN General Assembly on June 26.[49]
  • In December 2019 a Poway street was renamed as Lori Lynn Lane to honor Lori Lynn Gilbert-Kaye, the woman who was killed in the shooting.[50]

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 2019.
  2. ^ Van Sant, Shannon (April 27, 2019). "At Least 1 Killed In California Synagogue Shooting". NPR. Retrieved 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 2019.
  4. ^ a b Lartey, Jamiles (April 27, 2019). "San Diego synagogue shooting: one dead and three injured". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ "Woman killed, 3 injured in shooting at California synagogue". CBS News. April 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ The Forward; Helen Chernikoff (April 28, 2019). "Rabbi Wounded in Synagogue Shooting Finished Sermon Before Going to Hospital". Haaretz. Retrieved 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 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 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 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Here's What We Know About The California Synagogue Shooting". The Forward. April 28, 2019. Retrieved 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 2019.
  17. ^ "Who is John T. Earnest the Alleged San Diego Synagogue Shooter?". cbs8.com. April 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ a b Pink, Aiden. "Poway Rabbi Urged Hero Border Patrol Agent To Pray Armed". The Forward. Retrieved 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". fox13now.com. April 27, 2019. Retrieved 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 2019.
  23. ^ Kisken, Tom; Makinen, Julie (April 27, 2019). "San Diego synagogue shooting: what we know about suspect John Earnest". USA Today. Retrieved 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 2019.
  25. ^ a b c 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 2019.
  26. ^ a b Cleary, Tom (April 27, 2019). "John Earnest: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved 2019.
  27. ^ Seth J. Frantzman (April 28, 2019). "Anti-Trump Antisemitism: The Link Between Pittsburgh and Poway". Jpost.
  28. ^ Davis, Michael (May 15, 2019). "The Anti-Jewish Manifesto of John T. Earnest, the Poway Synagogue Shooter". Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ Collins, Ben; Blankstein, Andrew (April 27, 2019). "Anti-Semitic open letter posted online under name of Chabad synagogue suspect". NBC News. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^ Johnson, Andrew (March 24, 2019). "Suspect of Possible Arson Attack at Escondido Mosque Leaves Note Referencing New Zealand Terrorist Attacks". NBC San Diego. Retrieved 2019.
  31. ^ Mattingly, Terry (May 2, 2019). "Weaponized Calvinism? Accused shooter said his salvation was assured, no matter what". Get Religion. Retrieved 2019.
  32. ^ Blair, Leonardo (May 2, 2016). "Alleged synagogue shooter John Ernest was regular churchgoer who blamed Jews for killing Jesus". Christian Post. Retrieved 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 2019.
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  35. ^ "California synagogue shooter to spend life in prison without the possibility of parole as part of guilty plea". CNN. Retrieved 2021.
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  39. ^ "The Latest: Pittsburgh offers condolences after shooting". Fox News. April 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  40. ^ "Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter". April 27, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  41. ^ Frazin, Rachael (April 27, 2019). "2020 Dems condemn bigotry, gun violence after synagogue shooting". Retrieved 2019.
  42. ^ Spagat, Elliot; Nguyen, Daisy (April 27, 2019). "Synagogue shooting kills 1, wounds 3 during Jewish holiday". Associated Press. Retrieved 2019.
  43. ^ "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 2019.
  44. ^ a b "Netanyahu condemns 'abhorrent' San Diego synagogue attack". Israel Hayom. April 28, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  45. ^ Pascus, Brian; Martinez, Peter (April 29, 2019). ""We need to battle darkness with light": Rabbi wounded in attack offers inspiration". CBS News. Retrieved 2019.
  46. ^ Miles, Frank (April 29, 2019). "Parents disavow California synagogue suspect, say son is part of 'history of evil'". Fox News. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ "A Public Statement on the Shooting at the Chabad Synagogue". Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 2019.
  48. ^ "Remarks by President Trump at the National Day of Prayer Service". whitehouse.gov. May 2, 2019. Retrieved 2019 – via National Archives.
    "Rabbi Wounded In Chabad of Poway Shooting Invited To National Prayer Breakfast In Washington". KPBS. San Diego. City News Service. May 1, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
    McDonald, Jeff (May 2, 2019). "Heroes of Poway terror attack honored by Trump". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 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 2019.
  49. ^ "Rabbi Goldstein of Poway to address the GA (press release)". Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations. June 20, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  50. ^ Jones, J. Harry (December 20, 2019). "Poway street renamed in honor of Chabad shooting victim". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 2019.

External links

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