A 19-year-old man is in custody Saturday after opening fire on the last day of Passover at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, leaving one woman dead and three other people injured.
“We’ve seen these tragic events all over the United States,” San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said about the synagogue attack. “Sadly we’re seeing this happen all throughout this country and it’s tragic especially when it happens here in our own backyard.”
John Earnest, who was taken into custody after the assault, is also suspected of setting fire to a mosque in March in nearby Escondido and making references to the New Zealand mosque terror attacks, which killed 50 people, Gore said at a news conference.
Earnest was armed with an “AR-type assault weapon” when he opened fire at Chabad of Poway shortly before 11:30 a.m., Gore said. Saturday is Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath, and the synagogue was scheduled to be holding services, according to its website. On Facebook, Chabad advertised a Passover Holiday Celebration scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time.
“Clearly it’s being investigated as a homicide, we’re also looking at it is a hate crime possibility as well as several civil rights violations,” Gore said, adding the shooter is currently being interviewed by detectives and FBI agents.
“We don’t right now have any connection between Earnest and any white supremacist groups,” he added. Earnest is from San Diego and has no previous arrests. A woman who picked up at his home phone number declined to comment.
Four people — a young girl, two adult men, and an older woman — were injured, Gore said, which included the rabbi. The woman died of her injuries at Palomar Medical Center; one of the men is in surgery; the other man is in stable condition; and the girl is in stable condition and was taken to a children’s hospital.
“As you can imagine it was an extremely chaotic scene with people running everywhere when we got here,” Sheriff Sgt. Aaron Meleen told reporters.
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