John Earnest, The Poway Synagogue Shooting Suspect, Comes From A Family Of Lifeguards & Teachers

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The actions allegedly committed by John Earnest, the 19-year-old suspect in the violent shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, are in sharp contrast to the portrait painted of his family of civil servants, who reside in Rancho Penasquitos, California.

The San Diego Union-Tribune spoke with a friend of the family, Joyce Daubert, of Ramona, California, who says she is “stupefied and heartbroken” by John’s alleged attack, as well as his horrifying manifesto espousing hate, particularly toward the Jewish people.

Daubert says she taught alongside Earnest’s father, also named John, at Mt. Carmel High School. John (Sr.) was a physics teacher and lifeguard in La Jolla for nearly 30 years, along with other members of his family, including his son.

“I don’t have enough words to say how lovely (the family is),” Daubert stated in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. She says she only met the younger John Earnest at school gatherings but called him “charming, really impressive, and so sweet and nice.”

In 2014, The La Jolla Light wrote a profile of the extended Earnest family, calling lifeguarding their “family calling.” John Earnest, Sr., the father of the suspected Chabad of Poway shooter, came back to lifeguarding in the town after a 15-year break when his eldest son, James, started working at the beach.

Earnest’s brother, also named James Earnest, has been lifeguarding for over 30 years. Joining the family on the La Jolla beaches is John, Sr.’s daughter Megan, who tried out for a spot on the team in 2014.

After John Earnest, Sr. stopped lifeguarding and started teaching, he would teach summer school, preventing him from spending time at the beach. But when his son James joined his uncle on the lifeguarding squad, he couldn’t resist.

“I got tired of hearing them talk about all the things that were happening.”

The elder James Earnest says it was rewarding to be his brother’s instructor at the lifeguard academy.

“That was good payback for me. My freshman year of high school, he was a senior and all of his buddies would pick on me, so I got to dole out some punishment.”

Ironically, John Earnest, Sr. says he quizzes himself about what he would do in an emergency to avoid panic.

“I ask myself, what if that person right there goes under? What would I say on the radio? What would I get out of the trauma pack? What would I do so there would be a good end to whatever is going on?”