Weapon jam kept neo-Nazi shooter from firing 50 bullets, prevented Passover massacre at Poway synagogue
The neo-Nazi shooter who burst into Chabad of Poway on the last day of Passover and opened fire as about 100 people were worshipping inside, murdering Lori Gilbert Kaye and injuring three others, fired only 8 to 10 of the roughly 60 bullets he had before his weapon jammed, prosecutors said Tuesday.
John T. Earnest, 19, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder in the shooting attack that happened Saturday during a Passover service at the Chabad of Poway synagogue.
Earnest fired eight to 10 shots inside the synagogue, hitting Lori Kaye, 60, twice as she prayed in the foyer, prosecutors say.
Witnesses said Lori, 60, heroically stepped in to protect rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, who suffered injuries to both hands and lost his right index finger in the attack.
Then the neo-Nazi shooter turned toward a room of children and some adults, where Almog Peretz tried to protect his niece and other kids, prosecutors said. He and his niece Noya Dahan, 8, suffered shrapnel wounds.
Earnest was arrested shortly after the attack with 50 unfired bullets, a tactical vest, and helmet, prosecutors said during his arraignment.
It was unclear if the weapon jammed or malfunctioned or if the gunman didn’t know how to reload.
“Something happened to interrupt his use of that gun,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan told reporters.
He fled, and several people pursued him, including an off-duty Border Patrol agent who fired at him but missed, striking his getaway car, authorities said. Earnest called 911 after fleeing the synagogue and reported his location, prosecutors said. A police officer pulled him over and arrested him without a struggle.
The judge scheduled a status hearing for May 30 and denied bail, calling Earnest an extreme threat to public safety.
Earnest apparently became neo-Nazi sometime over the last two years. He is also charged with arson in connection with an attack last month on a mosque in nearby Escondido.