“Four weeks ago, I decided I was doing this. Four weeks later, I did it.”
Six months after eleven people were killed at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack, a San Diego synagogue experienced its own horror on Saturday, the last day of Passover.
Early Saturday morning, John T. Earnest, opened fire with an AR-style rifle at Congregation Chabad in Poway, north of San Diego. The Members of the Congregation were attending the final day of services for Passover, one of the holiest events in the Jewish faith.
Earnest, 19, is a nursing student at Cal State University in San Marcos, who lived about seven miles from the synagogue.
Disclaimer: This “open letter” is extremely disturbing. If you don’t wish to see its contents, please do not scroll down.
Two hours prior to the attack, Earnest posted an online “manifesto” on the anonymous message board, 8chan, in which he criticized Jews and also celebrated the slaying of 50 Muslims from New Zealand attacks last month, in which two mosques were shot up. The post linked to a violently anti-Semitic “open letter” and a Facebook page. The post which had promised a live video stream of the attack.
The Facebook page linked in the 8chan post has since been disabled, but the letter had been reproduced on the text storage site, Pastebin. The link circulated on Twitter for hours before the social media platform blocked the link. Despite the 8chan post about a video, no such video has yet circulated.
According to the manifesto, Earnest was willing to sacrifice his future “for the sake of my people.”
In the letter, Earnest also claimed responsibility for an arson fire that blackened the walls of Dar-ul-Arqam mosque, also known as the Islamic Center of Escondido, last month. While nobody was injured, there were seven people inside the building when the fire erupted around 3:15 a.m. He is currently under investigation.
“I scorched a mosque in Escondido with gasoline a week after the New Zealand shootings,” Earnest had written in his letter. “But the people inside woke up and put out the fire pretty much immediately after I drove away, which was unfortunate.”
He has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of first-degree attempted murder, according to the San Diego Sheriff’s Inmate Website.
“We are heartbroken by this tragedy, which was motivated by hate and anti-Semitism,” Cal State University President, Karen S. Hayness wrote in a letter to students and staff.
The European Jewish Congress has condemned this shooting, calling it “a very worrying trend in antisemitism in the U.S.”
Remembering Lori Kaye
According to the most recent reports, Lori Kaye, 60, an employee of the synagogue, was fatally shot when she jumped between Earnest and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, in efforts to shield him. She was attending services Saturday morning to say a Kaddish prayer for her mother, who died back in November, according to a friend.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein
If it weren’t for the brave sacrifice of Kaye, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein would not be alive today. Rabbi Goldstein, 57, was shot in the hand when Kaye stepped between him and Earnest.
According to a doctor at Palomar Medical Center, the rabbi suffered defensive wounds to both of his index fingers. “He will likely lose his right index finger,” said Dr. Michael Katz, a trauma surgeon at Palomar Medical Center Poway.
Katz told authorities that the hospital had received four patients from the shooting. One of them was Kaye, 60, who unfortunately passed at the hospital.
The two other victims, Almog Peretz, 34, was injured by shrapnel while trying to protect his niece, Noya Dahan, 9.
Dahan was transferred to a children’s hospital and will be continuously monitored, according to her father.
This Is Not Poway
Saturday evening, a large group of congregants gathered behind the synagogue:
“I want you to know, this is not Poway. 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 a deep appreciation for those who show courage at the Chabad; a deep appreciation for the law enforcement agencies that responded so quickly. We will get through this. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the families and those investigating. Poway will stay strong and will always be a community that cares for one another.” –Steve Vaus, Poway Mayor