Synagogue shooting: Four injured at San Diego synagogue

2019-04-28 09:47:38

The man in US police custody over the shooting at a synagogue near San Diego, allegedly made reference to the Christchurch terror attack in an online post shortly before the attack in California on Saturday (NZT Sunday).

A 19-year-old gunman opened fire inside a synagogue as worshippers celebrated the last day of Passover, a major Jewish holiday, killing a woman and wounding the rabbi and two others, authorities said.

A person identifying themselves as John Earnest posted an anti-Jewish screed online about an hour before the attack that contained some elements not to be believed, like an allegation a YouTube star helped plan and fund the shooting.

The post said he was training to be a nurse and cited the suspect accused of carrying out the deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch last month, and at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue on October 27 where 11 people were killed.

America's NBC News reported a link to the anti-Semitic note was put online shortly before the attack and posted to a white supremacist website, along with a link to a Facebook page saying "a livestream will begin shortly".

There was no active link to a livestream on the Facebook page. The post also included a link of songs the poster planned to play during the stream, NBC reported.

The post appears near identical to the one the accused Christchurch gunman left hours before opening fire at the Al Noor Masjid on Deans Ave and linked to the same document dumping sites too, NBC said.  The Christchurch shooter's writings have been deemed objectionable material in New Zealand.


An off-duty Border Patrol agent working as a security guard at the Chabad of Poway fired at the shooter as he fled, missing him but striking his getaway vehicle, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said.

The gunman, identified by police as John Earnest, used an AR-type assault weapon, Gore said. There were indications that the gun might have malfunctioned after firing numerous rounds inside the synagogue, the sheriff said.

Shortly after fleeing, Earnest called emergency services to report the shooting, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said.

When an officer reached the man on a roadway, "the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody," Nisleit said.

A girl and two men were wounded as the Jewish congregation gathered for Passover, a weeklong commemoration of the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. The three were in stable condition, authorities said.

Earnest has no criminal record, but investigators were looking into a claim he made in an online manifesto about setting a fire at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, Gore said. There was damage but no injuries.

Minoo Anvari, a member of the synagogue, told media outlets that her husband was inside during the shooting. She said he called to tell her the shooter was shouting and cursing.

She called the shooting "unbelievable" in a peaceful and tight-knit community.

"We are strong; you can't break us," Anvari said.

Donny Phonea, who lives across the street from the synagogue, turned off his power drill and heard someone shout, "Police!" Then he heard three or four shots.

The 38-year-old bank auditor looked over his backyard fence facing the synagogue and saw people hiding behind an electrical box in the parking lot of a neighbouring church. At that point, he knew something was "very, very wrong," went inside and closed his doors and garage.

"I'm a little taken aback," said Phonea, who moved to Poway two weeks ago.

"I moved here because safety was a factor. Poway is very safe."

US President Donald Trump offered his sympathies after the attack, saying the shooting "looked like a hate crime" and calling it "hard to believe".

The mayor of Poway, who tweeted that he got a call from the president offering help, also denounced what he called a hate crime, saying his assessment was based on statements uttered by the gunman when he entered the synagogue.

"I want you know to you this is not Poway," Mayor Steve Vaus said.

"We always walk with our arms around each other and we will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other."

The synagogue violence followed a  spate of deadly attacks on houses of worship around the world. Suicide bombings during Easter Sunday services at several churches in Sri Lanka killed more than 250 people and a gunman who opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 left 49 people dead and more than 40 wounded, some as they knelt in prayer.

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