(April 28, 2019 / JNS) A lone gunman entered Chabad of Poway in Southern California during Saturday-morning services on the last day of Passover and sprayed bullets into the synagogue, killing one woman and injuring three others.
An off-duty Border Patrol agent who was in the synagogue, which is located about a half-hour outside of San Diego, fired at the shooter, hitting his car. The gunman fled the scene, but was soon apprehended without incident after he called 911 to admit to committing the crime, in addition to providing his location.
He was identified as 19-year-old John Earnest of San Diego.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Earnest was armed with an “AR-type assault weapon,” and added that he was being interviewed by the FBI and detectives.
Gore did not provide a motive behind the shooting.
Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, succumbed to her injuries suffered in the attack. Also wounded were a girl and two men, including the synagogue’s rabbi, 57-year-old Yisroel Goldstein, who were rushed to nearby Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, reported the ABC News affiliate in San Diego.
Goldstein was expected to lose his right index finger, but may keep his left one, said trauma surgeon Michael Katz, reported the NBC News affiliate in San Diego.
The attack occurred exactly six months after the deadliest shooting in American Jewish history, when a gunman killed 11 worshippers in the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018.
‘This is not Poway’
“I want you to know, this is not Poway,” said Mayor Steve Vaus of the Southern California city, who labeled the shooting as a hate crime, said during cable-TV interviews. “We always walk with our arms around each other.”
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences.
“My deepest sympathies go to the people that were affected, the families, their loved ones … ,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “We’re doing some very heavy research, we’ll see what happens, what comes up … at this moment, it looks like a hate crime … my deepest sympathies to all of those affected, and we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
At a campaign rally the following evening in Green Bay, Wis., the president said, “Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in Poway, California—just happened. Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
The White House declined to comment on the record if the president plans to pay his respects in Poway in the coming days.
“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 cowardly acts of violence across our state, country, and world. It must be called out. CA stands with Poway,” tweeted California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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 cowardly acts of violence across our state, country, and world. It must be called out. CA stands with Poway.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 27, 2019
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, “Hearing about the shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this horrific attack.”
Feinstein added that “hate has no place in our country,” and that “we’re facing a rise in hate crimes and all of us have a duty to condemn hatred in all its forms whenever we see it,” along with calling for gun control measures.
Hearing about the shooting at Congregation Chabad in Poway breaks my heart. My thoughts are with the victims of this horrific attack. While we’re still learning exactly what happened, I want to be clear that hate has no place in our country. pic.twitter.com/FLrtG3r6gm
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) April 27, 2019
“Yet again a place of worship is the target of senseless gun violence and hate. Anti-Semitism is real in this country and we must not be silent—enough is enough,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). “My heart aches for the Chabad of Poway synagogue and the Jewish community.”
Yet again a place of worship is the target of senseless gun violence and hate. Anti-Semitism is real in this country and we must not be silent—enough is enough. My heart aches for the Chabad of Poway synagogue and the Jewish community.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 27, 2019
Other members of the California congressional delegation also reacted to the shooting.
“Anti-semitism and hate have no place in America. My heart breaks for those affected by the attack on the Synagogue in Poway, California. I expect swift justice for the victims and their families,” tweeted U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“Today marks 6 months to the day of the deadly shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And on the final day of Passover, another shooting in Poway today. The rise of antisemitism, our endemic gun violence–none of it–is normal. Our country needs a reckoning with itself,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda, adding that, while his thoughts are with the congregation, “our concerns will mean little to the past and future victims of hate and violence without action. It’s time.”
My thoughts are with the Congregation Shabad – but our concerns will mean little to the past and future victims of hate and violence without action. It’s time.
— Rep. Harley Rouda (@RepHarley) April 27, 2019
Additionally, members of Congress outside California expressed grief over what transpired.
“While we’re still looking at information, the number of hate crimes & anti-Semitic acts in America is increasing at an alarming rate. The shooting at Chabad of Poway is devastating, and such anti-Semitism at the end of Passover is sickening. We must end gun violence in America,” tweeted U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Heartbroken to learn of another violent anti-Semitic attack—this time, at a Synagogue in Poway, California, on the last day of Passover. Another community devastated by an act of gun violence at their place of worship. This hate-fueled violence has no place in our society,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.).
Heartbroken to learn of another violent anti-Semitic attack—this time, at a Synagogue in Poway, California, on the last day of Passover.
Another community devastated by an act of gun violence at their place of worship.
This hate-fueled violence has no place in our society. https://t.co/ji345QWLlL
— Rep. Lucy McBath (@RepLucyMcBath) April 27, 2019
“I’m heartbroken about the shooting at the synagogue in #Poway, CA. This despicable act of Anti-Semitism on the last day of Passover, and 6 months after the #TreeofLifeSynagogue massacre, is sickening. May the victims’ families and the Jewish community know no more sorrow,” tweeted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Anti-Semitism is a cancer. It’s an affront to religious liberty, which is at the core of our nation’s founding. All Americans stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry—on this sad day and always.”
Anti-Semitism is a cancer. It’s an affront to religious liberty, which is at the core of our nation’s founding. All Americans stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry—on this sad day and always.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) April 28, 2019
‘The peace of sacred worship has been shattered’
Jewish and pro-Israel organizations expressed solidarity with those affected by the Chabad shooting.
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a progressive Jewish group, said: “Our hearts are breaking for the victims of the shooting at the Chabad of Poway and their loved ones. On this last day of Passover, exactly six months after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we again mourn together with our Jewish community as we collectively experience the pain of anti-Semitic violence in our houses of prayer.”
“It is with heavy hearts, mixed with anger, that we condemn the shooting at a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, outside San Diego. Six months after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, the Jewish community has suffered another synagogue shooting, again at the hands of intolerance and hate,” said B’nai B’rith International president Charles Kaufman and CEO Daniel Mariaschin. “This kind of hatred must be met head-on, especially through increased vigilance and increased law enforcement monitoring and acting quickly to identify and stop those out there likely to commit these horrendous crimes.”
Along with praying for those affected, American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen said, “In yet another attack on our brothers and sisters, we are reminded of the dark shadow of hate that lies in the hearts of many, and that there are those [who] would do the Jewish people harm as we attempt to worship in peace.”
The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund striving to protect the civil and human rights of Jewish communities worldwide, said in a statement: “We cry out today. We cry out for the dead. We cry out for the injured. We cry out for the Chabad community of San Diego and for our global Jewish Community. We cry out for a world where these acts of violence against innocent worshipers have become all too common. We stand resolute against the hateful rhetoric that lurks in chat rooms and campuses alike, which incubates these evildoers—and against the evil of anti-Semitism, which is all too often dismissed and overlooked in our society.”
The Israeli-American Council issued the following statement, “Today’s events sound yet another alarm about the growing danger of anti-Semitism in our country. In recent years, anti-Semitic tropes once confined to the fringes of our culture have been increasingly expressed openly and unabashedly, including in mainstream American media. … These murders did not occur in a vacuum. They are the product of an age-old hate that continues to infect millions around the world.”