Racist Gunman Faces 109 Federal Charges, Additional State Charges
By Manuel Ocaño
The Justice Department has brought more than 100 federal hate and race-related charges against the 19-year-old man accused of a synagogue shooting in San Diego. Several of the counts carry either a death sentence or life in prison.
According to the complaint, charges include aggravated homicide and 54 counts of racially motivated attempted murder.
The charges are in connection with the April attack on a Poway synagogue using an M&P 15 automatic rifle, and an arson a month before at an Escondido mosque.
The Poway rabbi, who suffered injuries to his hand and only survived thanks to a female friend stepping in front of him, said that the authorities need to set a precedent.
“We need to go the full extent of the law, so that others would know that these types of acts will not be tolerated anywhere at any level”, said rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
At a press conference, U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said that “we will not allow our community members to be hunted in their houses of worship where they should feel free and safe to exercise their right to practice their religion.”
The complaint classifies the actions of 19-year-old John Earnest as hate crimes; that is, federal charges stemming from violence due to racial, ethnic, and/or religious differences or intolerance.
Earnest faces a total of 109 federal charges, including 54 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and bodily injury and involving attempt to kill using a firearm. He will also face 54 hate crime acts and damage to religious real property involving the use of a firearm.
He faces one federal charge of damage to religious property by use of fire stemming for his attempt to burn down the mosque.
The federal charges come after Earnest had already been arraigned in San Diego Superior Court a week before. State charges include homicide, attempted homicide, and counts related to his attempted destruction of the Escondido mosque.
He faces life in prison in both courts, but some of the Federal charges also carry the death sentence due to the aggravating circumstances.
On April 27, Earnest entered the Poway synagogue armed with an M&P 15 and a bulletproof vest and started firing. Rabbi Goldstein tried to talk him down, and the young man responded by shooting him on the hand. He was about to kill the Rabbi, but 60-year-old Lori Kaye got in his way and took the shots, leading to her death.
Another man and a girl were also injured in the attack.
When the assault rifle being used by Earnest got jammed, a veteran who was at the synagogue neutralized the assailant.
The young man faces charges for each person present in the synagogue he intended to attack, but was unable to when his weapon jammed.
Shortly before the attacks, Earnest had said in social media that he would die for his people, meaning white supremacists.
In a written statement, his parents said they were shocked and shamed by the actions of their son, who was raised with the same Christian values as his brothers.
In a manifesto published by Earnest on social media, he said that he was acting to defend the white race.