After a 19-year-old gunman fired at least eight rounds into a California synagogue, he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets, prosecutors said Tuesday.
In his first court appearance, John T. Earnest pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder in the shooting that killed a worshipper and injured three others at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover. He also pleaded not guilty to burning a mosque last month in nearby Escondido.
Earnest fired eight to 10 shots inside the synagogue near San Diego on Saturday, hitting Lori Kaye, 60, twice as she prayed in the foyer, prosecutors say. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein lost an index finger.
[FULL VIDEO: Levaya Held For Poway Chabad Shooting Victim Lori Kaye H”YD]
Then Earnest turned toward a room of children and some adults, where Almog Peretz tried to protect his niece and other kids, prosecutors said. He and his niece Noya Dahan, 8, suffered shrapnel wounds.
It was unclear if the weapon jammed or malfunctioned or if the gunman didn’t know how to reload.
“Something happened to interrupt his use of that gun,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan told reporters.
He fled, and several people pursued him, including an off-duty Border Patrol agent who fired at him but missed, striking the gunman’s getaway car, authorities said.
Earnest legally purchased the gun, Stephan said, declining to elaborate. She said he wore a tactical vest and carried five loaded magazines with 10 bullets each.
[MUST WATCH: Incredibly Strong Husband Of Chabad Shooting Victim Lori Kay HY”D Has POWERFUL Message For World Jewry]
Earnest, wearing glasses and standing inside a glass cabin in court, showed no emotion as a prosecutor recounted Saturday’s attack in Poway, a suburb north of San Diego. He spoke only once, acknowledging he was waiving his right to a speedy preliminary hearing, where prosecutors lay out their evidence.
Judge Joseph Brannigan denied bail and scheduled the hearing for July 8.
Earnest called 911 after fleeing the synagogue and reported his location. A San Diego police officer pulled him over and arrested him without a struggle.
David Chipman, a retired agent of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, suggested the gunman might not have known what he was doing and emptied his rifle. Rifles jam if all bullets are emptied before reloading.
“I wish this was more common — that people fail,” said Chipman, a senior policy analyst for the Giffords Center, an organization dedicated to fighting gun violence. “The reality is that with today’s weapons, they are designed to not malfunction.”
[Op-Ed By Shooting Victim Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein: A Terrorist Tried To Kill Me Because I Am A Jew. I Will Never Back Down.]
Earnest would be eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of murder that is classified as a hate crime, said Stephan, who met earlier in the day with the victim’s family. She said she would decide soon whether to seek the death penalty.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom in March issued a moratorium on executions while he is in office.
The district attorney, who vowed to avoid identifying the Earnest by name, said the defendant expressed his “intent to harm Jews” in an online posting. He also acknowledged using gasoline to spark a blaze that charred a wall of the Escondido mosque and scrawling graffiti praising the gunman who killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques last month, Stephan said.
Earnest was an accomplished student, athlete and musician whose embrace of white supremacy and anti-Semitism stunned his family and others closest to him. He lived with his parents and made the dean’s list both semesters last year as a nursing student at California State University, San Marcos.
[WATCH: Wounded Young Girl & Family Describe Surviving Poway Chabad Shooting Attack]
Stephan said hate crimes are often preceded by hateful words.
“A whole world can come into the privacy of their bedroom and their families don’t really see it,” Stephan said, declining to discuss specifics of the case.
His father, John A. Earnest, is a popular physics teacher at the high school his son attended. The parents said their son and five siblings were raised in a family that “rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do.”
“To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries,” the parents said Monday in their first public comments. “Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold.”
[MUST WATCH: Poway Chabad’s Rabbi Goldstein Recounts Shooting Attack; Argues For Return of Prayer to Public School]
Earnest frequented 8chan, a dark corner of the web where those disaffected by mainstream social media sites often post extremist, racist and violent views.
“I’ve only been lurking here for a year and half, yet what I’ve learned here is priceless. It’s been an honor,” he wrote.
[INCREDIBLE FOOTAGE: Message From Shooting Victim Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Sunday Press Conference & Interview With NBC]
[HERO SPEAKS: Iraq War Veteran Recounts Moment He Rushed Poway Chabad Shooter [VIDEO]
[FBI Received Tip Before Poway Chabad Shooting; Suspect Charged With Murder]
[Poway Attack: Chai Lifeline Provides Crisis Intervention; Sister of Victim Lori Gilbert-Kaye is Director of Chai Lifeline West Coast]
I don’t think this anamal’s picture should be circulated. Can you please remove his picture and put up a picture of the victim(s) instead.
A lesson to be learned here is : When all Rabunim talk about the danger of the internet and unfiltered cell phones they know the danger what this does to young boys. This murderer who grew up in a fine home and had good grades somehow got involved in hate groups and his readings brought him bad ideas and then turned out to be a murderer.
You can have Bucherim and Girls in Yeshivas and Bais Yakovs hiding behing their cell phones,reading Kefireh,apikorses, Litzunes, Loshon Hora and all of a sudden you start realizing they are not the same child as they were in Kitteh Tes or ninth grade. Its happening in all jewish crowds, Litvish, Chasidish, Bnei Torah, families.
Of course, a Yiddeshe Neshume doesn’t have the heart to blow people away but they nebech blowing their own neshumes away and ripping their parents,teachers,and mechancim to pieces.
Maybe hashem is sending us a messge and is demanding a little more from Klal Yisroel.
Today is the Yarzeit of holy Divrei Chaim of Sanz , may his zechis be a mylitz yosher on klal yisroel
Please please take down the picture of this murderer.
While at first I wondered wether I should see the picture of this evil person.. I then changed my mind and thought of the importance of the picture in reminding us that evil could hide behind and inocent look. This is not the profile of a person that I would have suspected And any person could absorb evil
Rebyossel wrote it very well, exactly how it is. Very sad when people think our rabbonim are outdated and not with the times..
50 unfired bullets? Thank G-d the gun jammed. I mean, thank G-d the gun jammed.
standing inside a glass cabin Sounds like Eichman.
Earnest legally purchased the gun Mike Bloomberg:- Please reiterate your campaign to outlaw and eradicate every single gun from the United States of America.
Earnest legally purchased the gun, Stephan said, declining to elaborate.
This is impossible. He’s only 19, so California law forbids him from purchasing any firearm.
Bloomberg can go to Hell with his campaign to violate the fundamental human rights that the USA was founded to protect. This shooter explicitly wrote that he wanted to cause the government to start confiscating people’s guns, so as to start a civil war, which he thinks his people would win.
He’s 100% correct that gun confiscation would start a civil war, because gun owners will not stand for it, and he’s correct that the defenders of freedom would win such a war; but he’s wrong in thinking that the defenders of freedom would have any sympathy for his perverted racial views.
“I don’t think this anamal’s picture should be circulated. Can you please remove his picture and put up a picture of the victim(s) instead.” YES!