Suspect in California synagogue shooting reportedly inspired by New Zealand mosque killings

An exterior view of the Altman Family Chabad Community Center at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Poway, Calif. Several people were injured in a shooting at the synagogue. (Associated Press)

John Earnest, the 19-year-old suspect in Saturday’s synagogue shooting near San Diego, painted himself as a martyr for white people and was inspired by last month's New Zealand mosque massacre, according to a hate-filled open letter posted online.

Authorities have accused Earnest of killing a woman and wounding three people when he allegedly opened fire during Passover services at the Chabad of Poway in Poway, Calif. He was taken into custody following the shooting.

In the manifesto – which was posted to an internet forum and attributed to Earnest – the author said he hates “anyone who seeks the destruction of my race," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He apparently admitted to setting fire to an Escondido mosque and supported the Christchurch, New Zealand, suspect, whom Fox News has declined to name, saying that suspect's alleged killings of 50 Muslim worshippers last month were an inspiration to him.

Members of the Chabad synagogue hug as they gather near the Altman Family Chabad Community Center, Saturday in Poway, Calif. (Associated Press)

The New Zealand suspect "was a catalyst for me personally. He showed me that it could be done. And that it needed to be done,” the author states, according to the New York Post.

Also quoted are several passages from the Bible’s New Testament, used to justify his beliefs, along with anti-Semitic remarks, the paper reported.

“My God understands why I did what I did,” the writer says, adding that he planned to stream the shooting on Facebook, just as video was posted of the March 15 New Zealand attack. But a spokesperson for Facebook said no evidence of a video related to the Poway shooting was found.

An account linked in the letter was deleted. the spokesperson said.

Earnest's father retired as a high school physics teacher in 2016 and served as a lifeguard in San Diego, according to the Post. Joyce Daubert, who taught alongside the elder Earnest, had many encounters with the family.

“I don’t have enough words to say how lovely (the family is),” she said in a phone interview with the paper Saturday afternoon. Daubert met the younger Earnest only at faculty gatherings but described him as “charming, really impressive, and so sweet and nice.”

The younger Earnest, of the Rancho Penasquitos community in San Diego, is enrolled in California State University, San Marcos. University President Karen Haynes confirmed Earnest's enrollment and said the school was cooperating with investigators.

The author of the letter claims to be “doing well” in nursing school and offers the self-description of being “just a normal dude who wanted to have a family, help and heal people, and play piano.”

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