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CHICAGO (Reuters) – A Californian convicted of attacking a synagogue and mosque in 2019 has been sentenced to life in prison without parole, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday.
John Earnest entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27, 2019 and opened fire, killing a woman and injuring three others before being arrested by police.
Earnest, who was 19 at the time, also admitted to attempting to burn down the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido, Calif. On March 24, 2019.
He admitted the two acts of violence “because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building”. Seven missionaries slept in the mosque, but none were injured, Garland said.
Earnest pleaded guilty to one indictment of 113 counts including 54 counts related to hate crimes, 55 counts of arson and four firearms related offenses.
âEveryone in this country should be able to freely exercise their religion without fear of attack,â Garland said.
âThe horrific crime of this accused was an attack on the fundamentals of our nation. The Department of Justice is unwavering in its commitment to tackle illegal acts of hatred and to hold perpetrators of hate-motivated violence accountable.
Police at the time said Earnest planned to kill more people at the synagogue, but his automatic rifle stuck.
âHate has no place in our society and prejudiced violence will not be tolerated,â Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.
âBy committing these heinous and senseless acts of violence against members of the Jewish and Muslim community, this accused violated our most basic American ideal: All people are created equal. The Justice Department is committed to aggressively prosecuting bias-motivated violence and will continue to partner with national and local law enforcement to ensure that those seeking to engage in bias-based violence are held accountable. responsible for their crimes. “
According to court documents, after several weeks of planning, on the morning of April 27, 2019, Earnest visited the Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego where members of the congregation were gathered for religious worship.
Earnest entered the building armed with a fully loaded assault rifle from a 10 round magazine. It carried a chest platform that contained five additional magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds.
Lori Gilbert Kaye, 60, was hit twice while praying. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was injured in the attack and lost an index finger. Police said Earnest was heading to a children’s room at the synagogue, and several adults attempted to protect their children. They were among the wounded injured by shrapnel.
“Today, we are with the family of Lori Gilbert Kaye, the injured and all those who suffered the heinous crimes of the accused,” said United States Attorney Randy Grossman of the Southern District of California.
âThe US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners reject all forms of hatred and prejudice, and we will relentlessly pursue justice for victims of bias-motivated violence. “
After Earnest emptied his initial magazine, several devotees attempted to subdue him.
He fled in his car and, soon after, called 911 and confessed that he had just “blown up a synagogue”. Earnest was apprehended by local law enforcement who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.
Investigators found a manifesto written by Earnest and posted online shortly before the attack. In the manifesto, Earnest made several anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim statements, including expressing a desire to kill people because of their Jewish faith.
The court ordered that the federal sentence be consecutive to the state sentence. The court further recommended that Earnest be held in federal custody.
Adding 30 years to the life sentence ensures that Earnest will not be paroled.
The case was pursued by Deputy U.S. Prosecutors Shane Harrigan and Peter Ko, as well as Deputy Chief Rose Gibson of the Civil Rights Division. The FBI, ATF, and the San Diego Sheriff’s Office investigated.