Poway Synagogue Shooting Suspect Told 911: ‘I’m Just Trying to Defend My Nation’
Feds reveal new details of the attack, including how the alleged shooter escaped and the message he left at a mosque after allegedly trying to burn it down.
John T. Earnest called 911 after allegedly attacking a Southern California synagogue and said, “I opened fire a synagogue. I think I just killed some people,” according to authorities.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Earnest with 109 hate-crime counts related to the attack on Chabad of Poway in April and a March attack on a mosque in nearby Escondido. Earnest, 19, is already charged by California with murder and attempted murder for the synagogue shooting that killed one person and wounded three others. He was also charged with trying to set fire to the mosque. Earnest pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail. His parents called him “evil” after the attack.
The new federal complaint gives the most detailed official account of the attacks so far.
Earnest arrived at the synagogue with a fully loaded semi-automatic rifle he picked up the day before the attack, according to the complaint, which said he carried 60 rounds of ammunition and wore a “chest rig” to hold the ammo.
Surveillance video shows Earnest opened the door of the synagogue and opened fire, according to the complaint, immediately striking 60-year-old Lori Kaye, who later died of her injuries. Earnest allegedly fired five rounds at Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who credited Kaye with saving his life. Goldstein was injured in both hands.
Earnest moved deeper inside the synagogue and allegedly fired until his ten-round magazine was empty. After an unsuccessful attempt to reload, several congregants moved to confront him, authorities said. Witnesses reported after the attack that an Army veteran chased Earnest out of the building. An off-duty Border Patrol agent fired on Earnest’s gray Honda Civic as he sped away.
Soon after, Earnest called 911 from his car to surrender.
“I just shot up a synagogue,” he allegedly said. “I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish people … they’re destroying our people … I opened fire on a synagogue. I think i just killed some people.”
For the first time, authorities confirmed a virulently racist manifesto posted online was created by Earnest. He “explicitly referred to ‘Jews’ as a race,” in the manifesto, according to the complaint alleging the attack was committed with racist intentions.
Unmentioned in the complaint was that the manifesto referenced a right-wing conspiracy theory that Jews are orchestrating the destruction of the white race through “mass immigration” of non-whites, The Daily Beast found.
It’s the same accusation leveled by other right-wing terrorists, including the alleged perpetrator of the Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh last October and Brenton Tarrant, who allegedly murdered 50 people at a Christchurch, New Zealand mosque in March.
Earnest wrote in his manifesto, which he promoted on 8chan’s /pol board, that Tarrant inspired him to kill Jews. Earnest also allegedly dedicated his own mosque attack to the terrorist.
“For Brenton Tarrant -t. /pol/” he wrote in the manifesto.
It was the “identical message” spray painted at the Escondido mosque, according to the complaint. Earnest is accused of trying to set fire to the mosque in the early morning hours of March 24, using an accelerant to ignite an exterior wall. (The fire was put out by congregants.) Surveillance video showed Earnest fled in the same model sedan he took to the synagogue, according to authorities.