San Diego, CA–A 22-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to a 113-count indictment for the religiously- and racially motivated murder of one person and the attempted murders of 53 other persons.
According to court documents, after several weeks of planning, on the morning of April 27, 2019, John T. Earnest drove to the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where members of the congregation were gathered for religious worship. Earnest entered the building armed with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle that was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine. He wore a chest rig that contained five additional magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition. Earnest opened fire, killing one person and injuring three other members of the congregation, including a then eight-year-old child. After Earnest emptied his initial magazine, several congregants rushed at Earnest. Earnest fled in his car and, shortly after, called 911 and confessed that he had “just shot up a synagogue.” Earnest was apprehended by local law enforcement who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.
“The defendant entered a synagogue with the intent to kill all those inside because of his hatred for Jewish people, and days earlier used fire in an attempt to destroy another sacred house of worship because of his hatred for Muslims,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “There is no place in American society for this type of hate-fueled violence.”
“This nation stands with Lori Gilbert Kaye’s family and the survivors of these unspeakable acts of terror,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “We emphatically reject the defendant’s hate, racism, and prejudice, and we hope the conclusion of this case brings some measure of comfort to all those affected by his heinous crimes.”
Earnest also admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building. Seven missionaries were asleep in the mosque, but no one was injured.
According to the terms of the plea agreement, the United States and Earnest will jointly recommend a sentence of life in prison followed by 30 years of imprisonment. Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 28.