Teen suspected in deadly Poway synagogue shooting wrote chilling letter day of shooting

POWAY, Calif. — A teen accused of opening fire at a Poway synagogue that killed one and wounded three others posted an open letter online the day of the shooting.

John Earnest, 19, was identified by investigators Saturday as the suspect in the deadly shooting at Congregation Chabad on Chabad Way near Espola Road and Rancho Bernardo Road.

In a letter, Earnest identifies himself as “a man of European ancestry” and writes he is “blessed by God for such a magnificent bloodline.”

The Cal State San Marcos student, who is reportedly on the Deans List, went on to take credit for the Poway synagogue shooting and also a suspected arson fire at the Islamic Center of Escondido.

In the disturbing post, Earnest denied affiliating himself with any political ideology, having a mental illness, and repeatedly said he would commit the shooting at the Poway synagogue in order to “protect his race.”

Around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Earnest reportedly walked into Congregation Chabad and opening fire. A “white male adult … with an AR-type assault weapon” walked in to the synagogue and started shooting. About 100 people were inside at the time, according to San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.

As the shooter fled the temple, an off-duty Border Patrol agent who had been inside the temple fired at his car, hitting the vehicle but not the driver, Sheriff Bill Gore said.

California Highway Patrol received a call from a man claiming to have carried out the attack and telling dispatchers where he was located. Around the same time, a San Diego police officer spotted a vehicle matching the suspect’s car in the area, Police Chief David Nisleit said.

Earnest jumped out with his hands up and surrendered to the officer, Nisleit said. As the officer put Earnest in handcuffs, “he clearly saw a rifle” on the car seat.

Officers arrived at Earnest’s Rancho Peñasquitos home, where he apparently lived with his parents, a short time later. Around 3:20 p.m., officers cleared the cul-de-sac of anyone but residents and investigators. People were escorted to their homes and asked to shelter in place.

At the same time, Earnest was being questioned by investigators. Gore said that the FBI was working with local authorities to review a “manifesto” circulating online that may have been posted by the suspected shooter. Earnest had no prior criminal record.

 

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