POWAY, United States (AFP) – A teenage gunman who wrote a hate-filled manifesto opened fire at a synagogue in California on Saturday, killing one person and injuring three others including the rabbi as worshippers marked the final day of Passover, authorities said.
The shooting in the town of Poway, north of San Diego, came exactly six months after a white supremacist killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue – the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said those wounded included the rabbi – who had injuries to both index fingers – as well as a female minor and 34-year-old man who were injured by shrapnel.
A 60-year-old woman died from her wounds.
Gore identified the suspect, who was arrested after fleeing the scene, as 19-year-old John Earnest and said he had no prior arrest record.
He said Earnest burst into the Chabad of Poway synagogue – where there were around 100 people – shortly after 11:20 am local time and opened fire with an assault weapon that appears to have malfunctioned, preventing him from inflicting more harm.
Gore said an off-duty border patrol agent who was at the synagogue at the time of the shooting opened fire on the gunman as he was fleeing, striking his car but missing the suspect.
The man was eventually apprehended by a San Diego police officer who had been monitoring dispatch radio and raced to the scene, San Diego police chief David Nisleit said.
“He clearly saw the suspect’s vehicle, the suspect jumped out with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody by the San Diego police department,” Nisleit said.
Gore said authorities were examining Earnest’s social media activity and establishing the authenticity of an anti-Semitic open letter he apparently published on a far-right message board hours before the attack.
“We have copies of his social media posts and his open letter and we’ll be reviewing those to determine the legitimacy of it and how it plays into the investigation,” he said.
The manifesto, seen by AFP, is similar to one posted on the same message board by Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist who was behind the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead.
The hate-filled letter lauds Tarrant’s actions and that of the Pittsburgh shooter and claims responsibility for a fire at a mosque in California a week after the Christchurch shootings.
Following the attack, a vigil was set to take place Saturday evening at the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles officials said that they were boosting patrols around synagogues and other places of worship in light of the attack.
Speaking at a rally in Wisconsin, President Donald Trump denounced the shooting as a “hate crime” and offered his support to the victims.
“Tonight, America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in California,” he told supporters.
“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.”
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom also denounced the tragedy.
“While we continue to learn more about what transpired, we can’t ignore the circumstances around this horrific incident,” he said.