A 19-year-old gunman opened fire inside a Chabad center near San Diego on Shabbos, the last day of Pesach, killing a woman and wounding the rabbi and two others, authorities said.
Chabad.org reports the shots rang out inside Chabad of Poway at around 11:30AM, as the congregation had been listening to Krias HaTorah. Inside the lobby, the gunman fatally shot Lori Gilbert-Kaye H”YD and grievously injured Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who later required surgery on both hands.
Please say Tehillim for the Chabad Shliach, Yisroel ben Chana Priva.
Also wounded was a young girl, 8-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle, Almog Peretz, 34. Dahan was hit with shrapnel in the face and leg. Witnesses said Peretz was shot in the leg as he heroically carried young children to safety. The family is originally from Sderot, Israel but had moved due to constant fear of terrorist rockets fired from nearby Gaza.
A witness told CNN affiliate KGTV there were six or seven shots followed by screams and then another volley of shots. The witness said the wounded rabbi tried to calm the gunman and members of the congregation.
There were indications an AR-type assault weapon might have malfunctioned after the gunman, identified as John Earnest, fired numerous rounds inside the Chabad of Poway, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said.
As the terrorist paused to reload, a Chabad regular and US Military veteran heroically rushed him. An off-duty Border Patrol agent working as a security guard fired at the shooter as he ran away, missing him but striking his getaway vehicle, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore said.
Shortly after fleeing, Earnest called 911 to report the shooting, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. When an officer reached him on a roadway, “the suspect pulled over, jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody,” Nisleit said.
Mrs. Lori Kaye H”YD, 60, was a beloved member of Chabad of Poway congregation for many years. She leaves behind a devastated husband and 22-year-old daughter.
Before he would allow himself to be rushed to the hospital, Rabbi Goldstein turned to his congregation and spoke. He referenced the “Vehi She’amdah” passage from the Haggadah, read at the Pesach Seder: “Not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand.” He went on to speak about remaining strong in the face of adversity and hate.
Rabbi Goldstein, who is originally from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., is also a Jewish chaplain with the San Diego sheriff’s department. Goldstein has been described as “talkative, warm and kind” by members of the Southern California community.
Later Shabbos afternoon, police allowed the congregants to regroup in the nearby home of Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, where the prayer were concluded. The service included Yizkor, in which the souls of the departed loved ones are recalled. Having been informed that Gilbert-Kaye had succumbed, they said a special prayer for her soul.
Following Chassidic custom, as the day came to an end, they sat down for a festive meal known as Seudas Moshiach, which included joyous singing and dancing. Poway Mayor Steve Vaus joined them along with other guests.
— Kristen Shanahan (@k_shan7) April 28, 2019
“In the face of senseless hate we commit to live proudly as Jews in this glorious country,” Rabbi Yonah Fradkin, executive director of Chabad of San Diego County, said in a statement.
“We strongly believe that love is exponentially more powerful than hate. We are deeply shaken by the loss of a true woman of valor, Lori Kaye, who lost her life solely for living as a Jew.”
We condemn in the strongest terms the evil & cowardly shooting at Chabad of Poway today as Jewish families celebrated Passover. No one should be in fear in a house of worship. Antisemitism isn’t just wrong – it’s evil. https://t.co/hkLOCf0anp
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 27, 2019
The anti-Semitic attack took place exactly six months since 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest assault on Jews in U.S. history.
Poway is a community of around 48,000 residents, located 20 miles north of San Diego. The city website boasts being one of the lowest crime rates in the state.
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said the congregation was targeted by “someone with hate in their heart … towards our Jewish community and that just will not stand.” The congregation “took security very seriously,” he said.
“I also understand from folks on the scene that this shooter was engaged by people in the congregation and those brave people certainly prevented this from being a much worse tragedy,” Vaus told CNN.
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.
Anvari, a refugee from Iran, said the rabbi called for unity and prayed for peace even after getting shot.
“Rabbi said, ‘We are united,'” said Anvari.
“This is something bad (that) is happening all over. And we have to believe that this bad thing is real and we don’t have to ignore it. We have to open our eyes. He prayed for peace. I respect him — even in spite of being injured he refused to go to hospital and he spoke. And he finished his speech and he then left the synagogue.”
She called the shooting “unbelievable” in a peaceful and tight-knit community.
“We are strong; you can’t break us,” Anvari said.
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 shooter, John 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.
Gore said authorities were reviewing copies of his social media posts and were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime in the city of Poway, just over 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of San Diego.
A person identifying themselves as John Earnest posted an anti-Jewish screed online about an hour before the attack. The poster described himself as a nursing school student and praised the suspects accused of carrying out deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand last month and at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue Oct. 27.
Post from a friend on FB who knows the victims of the Poway shooting — amazingly, two of them were Israelis from Sderot, the town on the Gaza border that is regularly targeted with rockets pic.twitter.com/WbkDswF5xk
— Noah Pollak (@NoahPollak) April 28, 2019
California State University, San Marcos, confirmed Earnest was a student on the dean’s list and said the school was “dismayed and disheartened” that he was suspected in “this despicable act.”
There was no known threat after Earnest was arrested, but authorities boosted patrols at places of worship as a precaution, police 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 neighboring 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.”
President Donald Trump offered his sympathies Saturday, saying the shooting “looked like a hate crime” and calling it “hard to believe.”
“Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded and stands in solidary with the Jewish community,” Trump said later at a rally in Wisconsin. “We forcefully condemn the evils of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated.”
He praised law enforcement’s “incredible response” and singled out the off-duty Border Patrol agent who “bravely returned fire and helped disrupt the attack and saved so many lives.”
The sheriff said the gun possibly malfunctioned.
“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting. Our entire nation stands in solidarity with the Jewish community,” Trump said, before praising an off-duty border patrol agent who “helped disrupt the attack” pic.twitter.com/S7sLNRrMwu
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 28, 2019
The mayor of Poway, who tweeted that he got a call from the president offering help, also denounced what he called a hate crime.
“I want you know 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.”
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said he joins the community in grief.
“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship, and no one should be targeted for practicing the tenets of their faith,” he said.
IS IT BREAKING? Is it?!?! As if you being an antisemite in Congress hasn’t contributed to such antisemitic violence?
Spare us your BS heartbreak!
You are at fault for this like every other Antisemite from the Left or Right!
Sicko. Keep your damn condolences. https://t.co/KpqK0DoaKr
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) April 28, 2019
This is PRECISELY what happens when you allow CAIR into Congress to shape resolutions so that “general hatred” is condemned and not exactly what this is, pure, vile, evil ANTISEMITISM!@Ilhan @RashidaTlaib @lsarsour , these are the ones responsible for mainstreaming Jew hatred! https://t.co/KpqK0DoaKr
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) April 28, 2019
San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore, briefing the media on the Poway synagogue shooting, said that:
– 3 of the 4 people (2 adult males, 1 female) shot are alive and recovering
– 1 woman was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds pic.twitter.com/oWpotokRTq
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) April 27, 2019
The Chabad of Poway shooting is a horrific act of terror. We’re once again left mourning the victims of another house of worship marred by hate and violence. We stand united against anti-Semitism and in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 27, 2019
Another tragedy in a house of worship. New York grieves for all those wounded and affected by this horrific shooting in Poway, California.
We will never be intimidated by violence or divided by hate.
New York stands shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 27, 2019
Another horrific shooting at a place of worship, today at the Poway Synagogue in San Diego County. We must work every day to eradicate all forms of hatred and bigotry, and take serious action to protect Americans from gun violence.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 27, 2019
Coming just six months after the horrific mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we are confronted with what appears to be another anti-Semitic attack. We all stand with the Jewish community against this act of hate.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) 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. My heart aches for the Chabad of Poway synagogue and the Jewish community.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 27, 2019
I'm heartsick for the victims of today's horrific attack at the Chabad of Poway and their families. No one should ever have to face hatred and violence in a place of worship. It's on all of us to stand up to the rising threat of anti-semitism, racism, and hate.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 27, 2019
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.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 27, 2019
Heartbroken to hear of the San Diego synagogue shooting, particularly so on this final day of Passover.
We have a responsibility to love + protect our neighbors.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 27, 2019
(AP / YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)