California Synagogue Shooter Pleads Guilty, Gets Life in Prison

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John T. Earnest, the 19-year-old used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle to kill one and injure three others in the lobby of Chabad of Poway, a synagogue in Southern California, in April 2019, recently avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to state charges that included murder and attempted murder, agreeing to spend the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of parole, reports the Washington Post. Earnest also faces 109 federal criminal charges, which are mostly hate crimes and civil rights violations. The federal case could result in the death penalty. Federal prosecutors have until Aug. 30 to decide if they will pursue that course of action. Earnest arrived at the synagogue, which had 54 congregants inside, armed with 60 rounds of ammunition. In addition to fatally shooting 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye, Earnest also fired at the rabbi — striking both of his hands — and an 8-year-old girl and her uncle.

In a manifesto posted online, Earnest cited the attacks in Pittsburgh and the deadly mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, as inspiration, and went on to admit that he was responsible for starting a fire at a mosque in Escondido, Calif., in March 2019. In addition to pleading guilty Tuesday in the synagogue attack, Earnest also pleaded guilty to a charge of arson related to the mosque fire. Prosecutors said that Earnest admitted in court on Tuesday that his acts at the mosque were “for the purpose of terrorizing Muslim worshipers” and that he opened fire at the synagogue “because of his bias and hatred of Jews.”

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