Teenage suspect due in court over California synagogue shooting

Text size Aa Aa

(Reuters) - The 19-year-old accused of carrying out a deadly gun attack in a California synagogue was due in a San Diego court on Tuesday, with his charges rated as hate crimes.

John Earnest faces one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder, all of them with hate crime added as a special circumstance, the San Diego District Attorney's Office said on Monday. He also faces one count of arson.

"We offer our condolences for the loss of a precious life and the violence that fell upon members of the Jewish congregation, gathered to celebrate the end of Passover," District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement.

Saturday's attack on Chabad of Poway synagogue in suburban San Diego happened six months to the day after 11 worshippers were shot to death at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest attack ever on American Jewry.

Earnest, who is being held without bail, appears to have written an online manifesto in which he also claimed responsibility for a pre-dawn arson attack at a nearby mosque last month and professed inspiration from the mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people in March.

Police and the FBI are still investigating a motive for the shooting that killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, a congregant, and wounded three others.

A funeral was held at the synagogue on Monday for Gilbert-Kaye, one of its founding members, and she was remembered as a deeply caring member of the community.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, one of three people who were wounded, losing his right index finger in the shooting, presided over the memorial service.

He described the horror of shooting in an opinion column in the New York Times, expressing his grief and bewilderment.

He also wrote that it should have been his funeral on Monday.

"I do not know God’s plan," he wrote. "All I can do is try to find meaning in what has happened. And to use this borrowed time to make my life matter more."

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Earnest has no prior criminal record. If convicted, Earnest faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty, the district attorney's office said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, additional reporting by Joseph Ax in New York, Alex Dobuzinskis and Rollo Ross in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Graff and Andrew Heavens)

euronews provides breaking news articles from reuters as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes. Articles appear on for a limited time.