Suspect Said Synagogue Shooting Was to 'Defend Country,' Unsealed Search Warrant Says - NBC 7 San Diego

Suspect Said Synagogue Shooting Was to 'Defend Country,' Unsealed Search Warrant Says

The search warrant details what happened on the day of the shooting.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New Details Emerge in Synagogue Poway Shooting

    Disturbing new details emerge from unsealed warrants in the synagogue shooting. NBC 7's Erika Cervantes has the details. (Published Sunday, June 16, 2019)

    A search warrant document offers new details about what happened inside a Poway synagogue when a gunman opened fire on the last day of Passover. The 37-page document also reveals that the suspet, John Earnest, appeared "detached" and "unaffected" by his alleged actions.

    The first 911 call came in at 11:23 a.m. April 27, moments after Earnest allegedly walked through the synagogue's front door and fired several rounds, killing one worshipper and injuring three other victims.

    The search warrant describes how the then-19-year-old suspect moved though the synagogue as he fired an AR-15-type assault weapon.

    Those shots killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others: Rabbi Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 8-year-old Noya Dahan and her uncle, Almog Peretz.

    Moments later, off-duty Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales retrieved a silver revolver from one of the congregational members. Earnest apparently dropped that weapon during the attack.

    According to the warrant, Morales returned to the synagogue after chasing Earnest and gave the revolver to congregation members, "...who placed it in a black prayer bag and left it in the synagogue."

    At 11:30 a.m. Earnest called 911 from the restaurant parking lot on West Bernardo Center Drive and offered to surrender. According to the warrant, Earnest admitted he had opened fire inside the synagogue in what he described as an attempt to "defend my country nation against the Jewish people."

    According to the warrant, San Diego Police officers found an AR-15 rifle on the front seat of Earnest's car. Officers also found a Go-Pro camera attached to a helmet.

    An FBI agent who heard part of Earnest's statement to police said the suspect claimed he "...had adopted his ideology of hate for members of the Jewish religion approximately 18 months..." before his shooting spree.

    The search warrant also provides the first detailed account of Earnest's reported confession to an arson attack in March on an Escondido mosque. Investigators said the 2012 Honda Civic Earnest was driving when arrested after the synagogue shooting matches the car seen in surveillance video from the mosque arson attack.

    Investigators used surveillance videos from businesses near the mosque to trace a portion of Earnest's route to the mosque on the night of the arson. According to the warrant, one of those videos also shows Earnest leaving the crime scene.

    Earnest has pleaded not guilty to hate crime and dozens of other state and federal criminal charges.