1 dead, 3 wounded after synagogue shooting in San Diego

Anti-Semitic incident
Anti-Semitic violence rose by 57 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to a 2017 study by the Anti-Defamation League. The study found that in 2017, incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault occurred 268 times in California. Graphic by Emma Reith

A suspect was taken into custody by the San Diego Police Department April 27 on suspicion of killing one and injuring three at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, about an hour and a half from Chapman. The suspect, 19-year-old John T. Earnest, allegedly entered the synagogue around 11:30 a.m. and opened fire, using an assault-like rifle, according to a press release from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Bill Gore, the San Diego County sheriff, tweeted April 27 that he is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Escondido Police to issue warrants to search the suspect’s home and car.

Authorities are also investigating Earnest’s possible ties to the burning and vandalism of an Escondido mosque March 24, as he appeared to claim responsibility for it in a manifesto he allegedly wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by this incident,” Gore tweeted.

Those injured in the shooting were taken to Palomar Medical Center, where one woman died. A rabbi suffered gunshot wounds to his hand and a 34-year-old man and a child were hit by bullet fragments, according to the press release.

The shooting, which occurred on the last day of Passover, took place on the six-month anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in Oct. 2018 that killed 11 churchgoers and wounded four police officers. Members of the Chapman community gathered to honor those killed in Pittsburgh. A memorial for the San Diego shooting will take place at the Fish Interfaith Center April 29 at 4 p.m.

Sheer Azoulai, a member of Chabad at Chapman and a San Diego native, wrote in a statement to The Panther that she was “devastated” to hear about the shooting. The Chabad of Poway synagogue is located about 20 minutes from Azoulai’s hometown and she has friends from her area who attend the synagogue, she said.

“(I) cannot wrap my head around how something like this can happen, let alone so close to my hometown,” Azoulai, a freshman business administration major, wrote April 27. “Nobody should be scared to go to their place of worship or express their religion, but these hate crimes have made it nearly impossible.”

In an April 27 press release, Gore said that the sheriff’s department is “not aware of any additional threats to the community.”

A 2017 study by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic violence had increased by 57 percent from the previous year. Azoulai wrote that she hopes to spread awareness about the increase hate crimes in the U.S.

“I am sending love to everyone back home and will continue to grow stronger with my San Diego community and Jewish community at this time,” Azoulai wrote.