A 19-year-old college student has been arrested in the synagogue shooting in Poway, California, accused of killing one person and injuring three more.
Authorities said John Earnest, an honor roll student at California State University, San Marcos, fled the synagogue Saturday, the last day of Passover, after the shooting, but called the 911 emergency number to report the shooting and his whereabouts. He surrendered minutes later without incident.
A person identifying himself as John Earnest posted an anti-Jewish diatribe online about an hour before the shooting unfolded at the Chabad of Poway synagogue. The person described himself as a nursing student and praised the suspects accused of the deadly attacks on Muslims at mosques in New Zealand last month and Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue last October.
San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said hate crime charges are being considered against Earnest.
“Any time somebody goes into a house of worship and shoots the congregants, in my book, that’s a hate crime,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said.
A 60-year-old woman, Lori Kayne, was killed in the attack, with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, and two Israelis, an eight-year-old girl, Noya Dahan, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, 31, sustaining wounds.
“I was with my back to the shooter,” Peretz told the Israeli YNet news site. “I heard a shot or two and then turned around to face him and that’s when he fired at me. I ran quickly, picking up a small girl in my hands. He hit me once in the leg and I kept running. I didn’t feel it much since there were so many bullets flying by. I heard them and I saw them right next to me.”
Sheriff Gore said a white male entered the synagogue shortly before 11:30 a.m. PDT and opened fire with an AR-type assault weapon that may have malfunctioned after the first several rounds.
Gore said an off-duty border patrol agent working as a security guard who saw the man fleeing the scene fired on the suspect. The suspect was not hit but his car was struck.
President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said, “My deepest sympathies go to the families who were affected.”
He added that the attack “looks like a hate crime.”
Trump also said on Twitter, “Sincerest THANK YOU to our great Border Patrol Agent who stopped the shooter at the Synagogue in Poway, California. He may have been off duty but his talents for Law Enforcement weren’t!”
Kevin McAleenan, the chief of the U.S. Homeland Security agency, said his agency “will take every appropriate action to assist the investigation and ensure that those affected by this tragedy receive the closure and justice they deserve.”