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Woman Killed, Child And Two Men Injured In Poway Synagogue Shooting

Posted Saturday, April 27, 2019 - 9:32 pm

One person was killed and three others were injured in a shooting at a synagogue in Poway Saturday, and a 19-year-old male suspect was in custody in what was described as a hate crime.

The worshiper who died was a 60-year-old woman.

The other three shooting victims — two adult men and a young girl — were taken by paramedics to Palomar Medical Center in Poway.

The girl was later taken to Rady Children’s Hospital for further treatment.

Trauma surgeon Michael Katz told NBC San Diego the synagogue’s 57-year- old rabbi was among the victims. The rabbi suffered injuries to both index fingers and was likely to lose one, but may keep the other.

The girl and the other male victim, a 34-year-old, sustained shrapnel injuries, Katz told the news station. All should recover, he said.

Authorities identified the suspect as John T. Earnest of San Diego.

In an “open letter” posted online shortly before the shooting, an individual writing under Earnest’s name took credit for both the synagogue shooting and a suspected arson fire at an Escondido mosque last month. The letter makes multiple anti-Semitic references and other racist comments.

Gore said authorities were working to verify the authenticity of the letter. Investigators couldn’t confirm if the alleged shooter is connected to any white supremacist groups.

Earnest has no prior arrests, the sheriff said.

Gore also said deputies were serving warrants for Earnest’s home, his car and the synagogue.

Authorities believe Earnest to be the only suspect, and said there were no further known threats to religious gatherings.

“We encourage our communities to continue with scheduled events and other activities as normal,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement Saturday night. “The suspect in the  Poway incident today has been captured and we believe he acted alone.  Of course, if you have information about any potential threats, we want to hear from you.  We have assigned deputies to religious centers throughout the weekend and will continue in our patrols and outreach moving forward.”

The shooting began shortly after 11:20 a.m., when the suspect burst into the Congregation Chabad synagogue armed with an AR-type assault rifle and opened fire as services were underway.

About 100 people were inside the temple at the time, Gore said.

The shooter’s gun apparently malfunctioned sometime during the attack, according to Gore.

An off-duty Border Patrol agent working as a security guard was inside the temple when the shooting began, and the agent opened fire as the suspect fled, Gore said.

The agent  did not strike the suspect, but did hit the suspect’s car, authorities said.

A San Diego police officer en route to the scene of the shooting spotted the suspect’s vehicle and pulled him over nearby, San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit said.

The suspect got out of his vehicle with his hands up, and was taken into custody without further incident, Nisleit said.

Gore said the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department will conduct a joint investigation of the shooting.

FBI San Diego Assistant Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel said federal agents will work closely with local law enforcement on the investigation.

Gore also said the Anti-Defamation League set up a family assistance program at Poway High School in the 15000 block of Espola Road, to help anyone looking for loved ones from the synagogue.

A night vigil for the shooting victims was held at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church.

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus described the attack as a hate crime.

“I want you to know this is not Poway,” Vaus said in front of the synagogue. “The Poway I know comes together as we did just a few weeks ago, at an interfaith event. We always walk with our arms around each other, and we will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other. We have deep appreciation for those who showed courage at the Chabad, deep appreciation for the law enforcement agencies that responded so quickly. … Poway will stay strong and we will always be a community that cares for one another.”

Speaking to reporters outside the White House Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump offered his support to the victims of the shooting.

“My deepest sympathies go to the people that were affected, the families, their loved ones,” Trump said. (It) looks right now, based on my last conversation, looks like a hate crime. We’re doing some very heavy research, we’ll see what happens, what comes up.

“At this moment it looks like a hate crime,” the president said. “But my deepest sympathies to all of those affected, and we’ll get to the bottom of it.”

A number of California politicians responded publicly to the shooting as news of it began to spread on Saturday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted: “Charleston, Pittsburgh, Quebec, New Zealand — now our own Poway, California. No one should ever fear going to their place of worship. Hate continues to fuel horrific and cowardice acts of violence across our state, country and world. It must be called out. CA stands with Poway.”

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco in Congress, said she was closely following the incident.

“We remain deeply grateful to first responders & community members working to protect their neighbors,” Pelosi said on Twitter. “We share in the grief of all who have been affected & their families.”

Pelosi’s thoughts were echoed by California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“Hearing about the shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway breaks my heart,” Feinstein said in a statement from her office. “My thoughts are with the victims of this horrific attack. It’s a fact that we’re facing a rise in hate crimes and all of us have a duty to condemn hatred in all its forms whenever we see it.”

California’s junior Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted: “Yet again, a place of worship is the target of senseless gun violence and hate. Anti-Semitism is real in this country and we must not be silent – enough is enough.”

Saturday marks the final day of Passover, one of the most solemn Jewish observances.

It also is the six-month anniversary of the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, during which 11 people were killed.

-Karen Weil contributed to this story

CNS-04-27-2019 20:26

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