Poway synagogue shooter slated to plead guilty next month in federal case

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A July 20, 2021 photo shows John Earnest as he pleaded guilty to murder and other state charges Tuesday morning in the 2019 shooting at the Chabad of Poway. (FOX 5)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The man charged with carrying out a hate-motivated shooting at the Chabad of Poway that killed one woman and injured three other people is set to plead guilty next month in his federal case.

John Timothy Earnest, 22, who previously pleaded guilty to murder and other state charges in connection with the April 27, 2019, shooting, is now set for a Sept. 17 change of plea hearing in San Diego federal court, according to a court docket entry dated Tuesday.

The hearing was scheduled one day after federal prosecutors stated in a court filing that the death penalty would not be pursued against Earnest, who faces more than 100 hate crime counts in his federal case.

He previously signed off on a conditional plea agreement in the federal prosecution, though the terms of that agreement have not been publicly disclosed.

About two weeks after the federal change of plea hearing, Earnest is slated to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 137 years to life, in the state’s case.

The former Rancho Penasquitos resident and Cal State San Marcos nursing student admitted to carrying out the shooting on the last day of Passover, fatally wounding 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who was shot twice in the synagogue’s foyer. Kaye, a longtime member of Chabad of Poway, was at the temple with her husband and daughter to honor her mother, who had recently died.

The congregation’s rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, lost a finger in the shooting. Two other people — Almog Peretz and his then-8-year-old niece, Noya Dahan — were also injured.

Prosecutors say 54 people were inside the synagogue when Earnest opened fire.

Surveillance footage from the date of the crime appears to show the shooter’s rifle jam or malfunction after he entered the synagogue and began firing. He then fled the scene after being chased out by congregants, drove a short distance away, called police and directed them to his location, where he was arrested.

As part of his plea, Earnest admitted that he specifically targeted the victims because they were Jewish.

He also pleaded guilty to an arson charge for setting fire to the Dar- ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido on March 24, 2019.

The shooting triggered a series of lawsuits from the victims of the shooting against Earnest, the Chabad itself, the gun store that sold Earnest the weapon and gun manufacturers.

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