The family of a 19-year-old man who is suspected of opening fire on a crowd of about 100 congregants during a Passover celebration at a Poway synagogue said their son is now part of a "history of evil."
The Earnest family released a written statement to NBC 7 on Monday condemning the alleged acts of their son, John T. Earnest, who faces one count of first degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting at Chabad of Poway on Saturday.
Long-time congregant Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the attack. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, Almog Peretz, 34, and 8-year-old Noya Dahan were struck by gunfire and treated at the hospital for their injuries. The rabbi lost an index finger, which was the most severe of the injuries, Palomar Hospital officials said.
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The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said John Earnest, a graduate of Mount Carmel High School and student at Cal State San Marcos, walked into the crowded synagogue at 11:23 a.m. on Saturday and began firing on the people inside.
The statement said Earnest has five siblings and was raised in "a family, a faith, and a community that all rejected hate."
We are shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue. But our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people. He has killed and injured the faithful who were gathered in a sacred place on a sacred day. To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.
Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold. Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith, and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do. How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us, though we are confident that law enforcement will uncover many details of the path that he took to this evil and despicable act. To that end, our family is cooperating with investigators. We ask only that the media and the public respect our privacy and allow the criminal justice system to work.
Our heavy hearts will forever go out to the victims and survivors. Our thanks go to the first responders who prevented even greater loss of life and the well-wishers who have supported us. And we pray for peace.
In the hours leading up to the shooting, a person identifying himself as John Earnest posted an open letter on a social media channel that was filled with racist rants and quotes from the Bible.
The FBI said Monday it received tips about a threatening social media post through its website and by phone about five minutes before the attack, The Associated Press reported. The shooting took place before FBI workers were able to identify who wrote the post.
The poster said he planned to livestream the shooting on Facebook, though there was no link to a livestream on his Facebook page, NBC News reported. The account has since been deactivated.
The poster also took responsibility for an Escondido, California mosque arson on March 24 and police said Earnest was also being investigated in connection with that arson.
Officials have not released a possible motive for the shooting though Mayor Steve Vaus called the shooting a hate crime to national news networks.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said Earnest may be charged with a hate crime in addition to homicide charges when he's arraigned later this week.
No other information was available.
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