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US won’t seek death penalty for California synagogue shooter

22-year-old John T. Earnest expected to get life imprisonment after opening fire during 2019 Passover services at Chabad of Poway, killing one

Poway synagogue shooting suspect John Earnest during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, on September 19, 2019. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)
Poway synagogue shooting suspect John Earnest during a preliminary hearing in Superior Court in San Diego, on September 19, 2019. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

SAN DIEGO, California — Federal prosecutors said that they will not seek the death penalty for a 22-year-old former nursing student charged in a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover.

The decision was disclosed Monday in a one-sentence court filing in federal court in San Diego. It comes less than two months after United States Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.

In July, John T. Earnest pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in state court. The San Diego County district attorney’s office said at the time that he agreed to serve the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for September 30.

In the federal case, Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement for consideration by federal prosecutors in June 4, the terms of which have not been disclosed. A hearing in that case is scheduled for September 8.

In this April 28, 2019 file photo, a San Diego county sheriff’s deputy stands in front of the Poway Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, following a shooting that left one woman dead and wounded three others. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)

Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Passover services in April 2019 at Chabad of Poway. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.

Earnest then called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people,” authorities said.

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