Synagogue gunman charged with murder, hate crimes

Family of 19-year-old John Earnest is stunned by his radical embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism, won’t provide him with legal counsel

Alleged San Diego shooter John Earnest. (YouTube screenshot)
Alleged San Diego shooter John Earnest. (YouTube screenshot)

A 19-year-old man was charged Monday with murder and three counts of attempted murder for the deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue over the weekend.

The murder and attempted murder charges stemming from Saturday’s shooting at Chabad of Poway carry special-circumstance allegations of a hate crime.

San Diego County prosecutors also charged John T. Earnest over an arson attack on a mosque in the nearby city of Escondido in March.

The District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Earnest will be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

The gunman was a star scholar, athlete and musician whose embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism has dumbfounded his family and others who thought they knew him well.

He made the dean’s list both semesters last year as a nursing student at California State University, San Marcos. In high school, he had stellar grades, swam on the varsity team and basked in applause of classmates for his piano solos at talent shows.

The suspect’s parents said their son and his five siblings were raised in a family that “rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do.”

“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries,” the parents said Monday in their first public comments. “Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold.”

A couple embrace near a growing memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Calif., on Monday,, April 29, 2019 (AP Photo/Greg Bull)

The parents, who are cooperating with investigators, do not plan to plan to provide legal representation to their son, whose initial court appearance was scheduled for Tuesday. According to family attorney Earll Pott, a public defender will likely be appointed.

Earnest burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday that celebrates freedom, and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on the crowd of about 100.

He fled when the rifle jammed, according to authorities and witnesses, avoiding an Army combat veteran and an off-duty Border Patrol agent who pursued him. He called 911 to report the shooting and surrendered a short time later.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a founding member of the congregation, was killed. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in the hands, while 8-year-old Israeli girl Noya Dahan and her uncle Almog Peretz suffered shrapnel wounds.

Pallbearers carry the casket of shooting victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye during a graveside service on April 29, 2019, in San Diego, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)

Kaye, 60, was remembered for her kindness Monday at a funeral memorial service at the packed synagogue in Poway.

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