San Diego

Grand Jury Indicts Alleged Poway Synagogue Shooter on 113 Counts, Including Hate Crimes

One member of the congregation was killed and a rabbi and two others were wounded in the April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue

What to Know

  • The man charged with the shooting inside a synagogue and the arson at a mosque faces hate crimes and other federal charges.
  • The 19 year old will appear in federal court on Tuesday for the first time.
  • One woman died and three others were injured in the April 27 shooting at Chabad of Poway on the last day of Passover.

A federal grand jury has indicted the man suspected in the deadly shooting at a synagogue in Poway last month and arson at an Escondido mosque; he is now facing 113 federal counts, including hate crimes.

Rancho Penasquitos resident John T. Earnest, 19, was charged with 109 federal counts on May 9 in connection with the April 27 shooting at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in San Diego, California. Tuesday’s indictment adds four counts for discharging a firearm during crimes of violence, the Office of U.S. Attorney Southern District of California Robert S. Brewer, Jr., said.

Federal documents show Earnest was indicted on civil rights, hate crime and firearm charges in connection with the killing of Lori Gilbert-Kaye – one of the members of the congregation at the Chabad of Poway – and the attempted murder of 53 others at the synagogue.

The indictment also includes charges for the March 24 arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque Escondido.

Brewer’s office said Earnest is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on June 4 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg.

Last week, Earnest pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges.

He is charged with bursting into the Chabad of Poway synagogue as members of the congregation were gathered to worship and celebrate Shabbat and the last day of Passover.

Federal documents said Earnest was armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle that was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine.

“He wore a chest rig that contained five additional magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition,” the documents from Brewer’s office stated.

Gilbert-Kaye was struck twice by bullets as she prayed in the synagogue foyer. Three others were wounded: Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, as well as an 8-year-old girl and her uncle.

According to the affidavit, during a pause in gunfire when Earnest tried to unsuccessfully reload his firearm, several congregant members – including an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent – chased Earnest and he fled from the synagogue.

When Earnest was detained by authorities, they discovered the AR-15 and magazines of ammunition in the suspect’s car. The affidavit also said investigators found an online manifesto allegedly published by Earnest in which he allegedly made anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements.

In that manifesto, Earnest also allegedly admitted to the arson at the mosque in Escondido, which happened about a month before the synagogue shooting.

At Earnest’s court appearance last week, assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Ko reaffirmed plans to try Earnest separately and simultaneously with a state charge of murder that is classified as a hate crime, which also exposes Earnest to a potential death sentence.

Brewer’s office said Tuesday that the attorney general will decide at a later time whether to seek the death penalty.

Earnest remains in state custody pending state criminal charges.

To read the full indictment, click here. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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