The 19-year-old suspect in a fatal shooting at a Southern California synagogue is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday on federal hate crime charges.
John T. Earnest will be escorted a few blocks to the federal courthouse in downtown San Diego from a county jail, where he is being held on state charges for murder and attempted murder.
Earnest is accused of bursting into the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27 and opening fire with an assault rifle, killing one and injuring three.
A chilling account in a federal affidavit describes a deeply disturbed man filled with hatred toward Jews and Muslims, which are detailed in a manifesto he allegedly published online. He claimed to be inspired by the attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue last fall, the affidavit said.
Earnest allegedly dialed 911 after fleeing the synagogue in his car and said: “I just shot up a synagogue.” He went on to tell the dispatcher that he thought he had killed some people and that he did it “because Jewish people are destroying the white race,” according to the affidavit. He was quickly arrested without a struggle.
Last week, the Department of Justice filed 109 hate crime and other charges against Earnest, who could face the death penalty if convicted.
He also faces charges in state court that could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to murdering 60-year-old Lori Kaye, who was hit twice as she prayed in the synagogue foyer, and injuring Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was leading the service, an 8-year-old girl and her uncle.
Earnest has also pleaded not guilty to trying to burn a mosque in the nearby community of Escondido, where seven people on a spiritual retreat were sleeping, according to the affidavit. They awoke to flames licking at the door and managed to extinguish the fire, which charred a wall.
Outside the mosque was the scrawled name of the man accused of carrying out shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people.