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By Will Fritz
City News Service 

Woman killed, child and two men injured in Poway synagogue shooting


Last updated 4/29/2019 at 2:34pm

POWAY - One person was killed and three others were injured in a shooting at a synagogue in Poway in the morning of Saturday, April 27, and a 19-year-old male suspect was in custody in what was being described as a hate crime.

The person who died was an adult woman, and the other three shooting victims, two adult men and a young girl, were taken by paramedics to Palomar Medical Center, where officials said they were thought to be in "stable'' condition.

Authorities identified the suspect as John T. Earnest, 19, of San Diego.

In an "open letter'' posted online shortly before the shooting, an individual under Earnest's name appears to take 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.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said the incident began at 11:23 a.m. when the suspect came to the Congregation Chabad synagogue armed with an AR-type assault rifle and opened fire as services were underway.

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

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

The agent apparently did not strike the suspect, but did hit the suspect's car.

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 he 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 had set up a family assistance program at Poway High School at 15500 Espola Road to help anyone who may be looking for loved ones from the synagogue. San Diego police were conducting increased patrols at nearby synagogues, an officer confirmed.

Multiple media reports and witness statements said the temple's rabbi had been shot in the hand as he spoke to the congregation, but Gore could not confirm that.

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

"I want you to know this is not Poway,'' Vaus said at the scene of the shooting, just off Espola Road. "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 this 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, by the -- looks right now, based on my last conversation, looks like a hate crime,'' the president said. "We're doing some very heavy research, we'll see what happens, what comes up. At this moment it looks like a hate crime, but my deepest sympathies to all of those affected, and we'll get to the bottom of it.''

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.''

Saturday is the final day of Passover. It's also the six-month anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people were killed.


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