The teenage gunman who attacked a synagogue in San Diego, killing a woman and injuring three others, was the apparent author of an online manifesto in which he described himself as a martyr with a hatred for anyone seeking the ‘destruction” of the white race.
On Sunday, as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, described the attack as a “blow to the heart of the Jewish people,” it was revealed that the 19-year-old also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a mosque in Escondido last month, less than ten miles away.
John T Earnest, believed to be a nursing student at a local university and son of a retired high school teacher, surrendered to police after fleeing the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where he opened fire as worshippers were celebrating the last day of Passover on Saturday.
An hour before the attack, a person identifying themselves as Earnest posted an anti-Semitic letter to several online forums in which he wrote: “I would die a thousand times over to prevent the doomed fate that the Jews have planned for my race.
“The Jews have depleted our patience and our mercy. I feel no remorse. I only wish I killed more.”
The writer also shared his admiration for the perpetrators of other mass shootings, including the gunman who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue six months ago and the Christchurch mosque massacre.
He described himself as “just a normal dude who wanted to have a family, help and heal people, and play piano.”
The murdered woman has been identified by friends as Lori Kaye, a 60-year-old mother of one. She reportedly threw herself in front of the synagogue’s founding rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, who was wounded in both hands.
Kaye was mourning the recent loss of her mother and attended the synagogue to pray, according to those who knew her.
Roneet Lev, her close friend, said: “She didn’t die a senselessness death. She died advertising the problem we have with anti-Semitism and to bring good to this world.”
Also hurt was an eight-year-old girl, Noya Dahan, who was hit with shrapnel in the face and leg and her uncle Almong Peretz, 34, who was shot in the leg as he gathered children in a playroom and ushered them to safety. Their family had moved from the Israeli town of Sderot, near the Gaza border, to San Diego a few months ago. All those injured are recovering.
The 100 or so worshippers were about twenty minutes into the celebration that began at 11am when the gunman walked in. Witnesses said he was dressed in a green military vest, wore glasses, and carried “an AR-15 style” assault rifle. Some said he was shouting obscenities with one US news outlet reporting that he screamed: “F— the Jews.”
Witnesses told the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper of hearing screams of “hide yourself” and ”shooting, shooting, shooting,” and six loud bangs as those inside frantically tried to locate family and friends and escape.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who lost a finger, related how he heard a “banging noise” before finding himself “face to face with this murderer terrorist”.
“He was holding the rifle and walking straight at me” he told NBC. “As soon as he saw me he started to shoot towards me. That’s when I put my hands up and my fingers got blown away, and then he continued on and killed Lori Kaye.”
The rabbi added: “I just ran not even knowing my fingers were blown off, to get the children outside. I continued the sermon outside as we were sheltering and waiting for authorities to arrive. I spoke from my heart to give everyone courage. Seventy years ago during the Holocaust we were gunned down like this, we are not gonna let this happen here.”
Police believe Earnest’s assault rifle jammed which prevented further deaths and injuries.
An off duty border patrol agent working as an armed security guard during the service took shots at the gunman as fled in his car. The suspect then called 911. He was located shortly after at the side of the road and was taken into custody without incident, according to San Diego police chief David Nisleit.
“He jumped out of the car with his hands up,” said the police chief who added the suspect had no criminal record.
Friends of the Earnest family, who live 12 miles from where the shooting took place, have expressed their shock.
Joyce Daubert, who worked alongside the gunman’s father, told the Union Tribune the family was “lovely”, and described the teenager as “charming, really impressive, and so sweet and nice.”
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