John Earnest: San Diego Synagogue Shooting Suspect Identified As 19-Year-Old White Man, Hate Crime Suspected

Police tape outside a crime scene.
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John Earnest has been identified as the suspect who entered a San Diego-area synagogue and opened fire in an attack that has left one person dead and several others injured.

Police in the city of Poway said the 19-year-old white man opened fire in what they believe was a hate crime given statements he made during or prior to the shooting. The shooter was believed to have used what police described as an “AR-type assault weapon” in the attack.

Esmeralda Medellin, a reporter with Telemundo, noted on Twitter that several law enforcement sources had identified the shooting suspect as John T. Earnest, a 19-year-old white man.

As WCBS reporter Kevin Rincon reported on Twitter, authorities said one woman was killed in the attack and three others were taken to the hospital, including a child and the rabbi at the synagogue.

John Earnest was identified as a San Diego resident, and police were reportedly poring over the man’s social media pages to glean more information about the attack and his motives.

Police said the shooting could have been much worse were it not for the brave actions of the congregants inside the synagogue at the time of the attack.

“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,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus told CNN.

Police said John Earnest fled the scene after the synagogue shooting, but an off-duty Border Patrol agent opened fire on the suspect. Earnest was apprehended in his car and surrendered to police with his hands up.

Witnesses said the leader of the synagogue remained calm in the midst of the shooting. Congregation member Minoo Anvari, whose husband witnessed the shooting, told CNN that the synagogue’s rabbi made a call for unity and prayed even after he was shot.

“This is something bad (that) is happening all over,” Anvari said. “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.”

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The shooting took place six months after the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in American history, when a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead. That attack was also described as a targeted hate crime from a suspect who posted anti-semitic comments online.

Police have not yet announced the exact charges John Earnest will face in relation to the San Diego-area synagogue shooting.